Isaiah 40:11
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.
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(11) He shall feed his flock . . .—Psalms 23 is the great embodiment of the thought in the Old Testament, as John 10 is in the New, but the thought itself is everywhere (Psalm 77:20; Psalm 80:1; Jeremiah 13:17; Jeremiah 31:10; Jeremiah 1:19; Ezekiel 34:11-16; Matthew 9:36; Matthew 18:12; Luke 15:4, &c). The tender care of the shepherd for the ewes and lambs finds a parallel in Jacob’s pleas (Genesis 33:13).

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.He shall feed his flock - In the previous verse, the fact had been asserted that God would come to subdue his foes, and to reward his people. In this verse, the mild and gentle character of his government over his people is predicted. It would not be that of a conqueror over vanquished subjects; but it would be mild and tender, like that of a shepherd who carries the lambs, which are unable to walk, in his own arms, and gently leads along the feeble and the delicate. The verb translated "to feed' (ירעה yire‛eh), denotes more than our word feed at present. It refers to all the care of a shepherd over his flock; and means to tend, to guard, to govern, to provide pasture, to defend from danger, as a shepherd does his flock. It is often applied in the Scriptures to God represented as the tender shepherd, and especially to the Redeemer Psalm 23:1; Ezekiel 34:23; John 10:14; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25; 1 Peter 5:4. It is often applied to a leader or a ruler of a people 2 Samuel 5:2; 2 Samuel 7:7; Jeremiah 32:2. Thus Homer often uses the phrase, ποιμήν λαῶν poimēn laōn - 'shepherds of the people,' to denote a ruler, or monarch. Here it denotes that God would evince toward his people the same tender care, guardianship and protection, which a shepherd shows for his flock.

He shall gather the lambs with his arm - This is a most beautiful expression, denoting the care of God the Saviour for the feeblest and weakest of his people, and for the young and feeble in years and piety. A similar thing is often done by a shepherd. The tender lamb, unable to keep up with the flock, becomes weary and exhausted; and the shepherd naturally takes it in his arms and carries it. Such a shepherd as this Virgil beautifully describes:

En, ipse capellas

Protenus aeger argo; hancetiam vix, Tityre, duco;

Hic inter densas corylos modo namque gemellos,

Spem gregis, Ah! silice in nuda connixa reliquet.

Eclog. i.12.

Lo! I my goats urge fainting o'er the mead;

This, feebler than the rest, with pains Ilead.

Yean'd mid yon herds upon the flinty plain,

Her dying twins, my flock's late hope, remain.



11. feed—including all a shepherd's care—"tend" (Eze 34:23; Ps 23:1; Heb 13:20; 1Pe 2:25).

carry—applicable to Messiah's restoration of Israel, as sheep scattered in all lands, and unable to move of themselves to their own land (Ps 80:1; Jer 23:3). As Israel was "carried from the womb" (that is, in its earliest days) (Isa 63:9, 11, 12; Ps 77:20), so it shall be in "old age" (that is, its latter days) (Isa 46:3, 4).

gently lead—as a thoughtful shepherd does the ewes "giving suck" (Margin) (Ge 33:13, 14).

He shall perform all the offices of a tender and faithful shepherd towards his people, carrying himself with great wisdom, and condescension, and compassion to every one of them, according to their several capacities and infirmities.

He shall feed his flock like a shepherd,.... Christ has a flock, a flock of men, a distinct and peculiar people, and it is but one, and that a little one, and yet a beautiful one, though often a flock of slaughter; which is his by his Father's gift, and his own purchase, and appears manifest in the effectual calling, when he calls them by name; to these he stands in the relation of a shepherd, being so by his Father's designation and appointment, and his own consent; and a good shepherd he is, as is manifest by his laying down his life for the sheep; and a great one, being Jehovah's fellow, and the chief shepherd, under whom all others are; yea, he is the one, and only one; and a very careful, compassionate, and faithful one he is; who performs his whole office as a shepherd, not only by providing food for his flock, by leading them into green and good pastures, his church and ordinances; by appointing under shepherds to feed them with the doctrines of the Gospel, the wholesome words of the Lord Jesus; and by feeding them himself, with himself, the bread of life, and hidden manna, whose flesh is meat indeed, and whose blood is drink indeed; but also by protecting them from all their enemies, the roaring and devouring lion, Satan, and wolves in sheep's clothing, false teachers; and by taking such notice and account of them, as that none of them shall be lost; and by doing all that is expressed Ezekiel 34:16, seeking that which was lost; bringing back that which was driven away; binding up that which was broken; and strengthening and healing the sick, as well as watching over them night and day, lest any hurt them:

he shall gather the lambs with his arm; the weaklings of the flock; the same with babes and sucklings, newly born souls, weak believers, mean and low in their own eyes, the smoking flax, and bruised reed, the day of small things, the poor of the flock; these he gathers with his arm of power, and by the ministry of the Gospel, both to himself, his person, righteousness, grace and fulness, and to his church, to partake of the word and ordinances of it, and to nearer communion with him in them; he gathers them up into his arms in a way of protection, when liable to fall into the hands of powerful enemies, and to be hurt by them, and in order to carry them, they not being able to go of themselves, as it follows:

and carry them in his bosom; which is expressive of very great affection to them, such being greatly loved as are put into the bosom, as Obed by Naomi, the poor man's ewe lamb, and a wife of youth; as also of great nearness to him, being in his bosom must lie near his heart, and are indeed upon it; likewise it denotes the most intimate communion with him, and a being privy to his secrets, as Christ in the bosom of his Father is to his; as well as it implies an enjoyment of rest in him, and safety by him; for what can disturb or hurt such as are in the bosom of Christ?

and shall gently lead those that are with young; who have the seed of grace in them, have spiritual principles wrought in their souls, Christ formed in their hearts, are full of desires for him and spiritual things, and carry a burden, that of their sins, under which they groan; these he leads out, and off of themselves to himself, his blood, righteousness, and sacrifice, into green pastures, into his Father's presence, and at last to glory; and he leads them on "gently", gradually, step by step, to see their own vileness and sinfulness, to look, go to, lay hold on him, and retain him; he leads them into the truths of the Gospel, and the deep waters of the sanctuary, and proportionably to their strength as they are able to bear, either the doctrines of the Gospel, or the duties of religion, or afflictions and sufferings; see Genesis 33:14.

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 {q} young.

(q) He will show his care and favour over them who are weak and tender.

11. Jehovah as the Good Shepherd: an ideal picture of the homeward journey of the exiles, hardly of the permanent relations of Jehovah to His people in the final dispensation. The same image is used of the Restoration in Jeremiah 23:1 ff; Jeremiah 31:10; Ezekiel 34:11 ff.; Isaiah 49:9; cf. Isaiah 63:11.

those that are with young] Render, with R.V., those that give suck. cf. Genesis 33:13.

Ch. Isaiah 40:12-31. Jehovah, God of Israel, the Incomparable, is the title suggested by Dr Davidson[76] for this great passage. It is a meditation or homily on the immeasurable greatness and power and wisdom of Jehovah, the Creator, as displayed in the works of nature and in the government of the world; an expansion of the idea of Isaiah 40:6-8. The argument from Creation is handled with a boldness of conception and freedom of imagination to which there is nothing equal in the earlier literature, and the frequent appeal to it on the part of this prophet may be held to mark a distinct advance in Israel’s consciousness of God, coinciding generally with the period of the Exile. The practical aim which the writer has in view appears from Isaiah 40:27 ff.; it is to counteract the unbelief and despondency of his fellow-countrymen and to inspire them with some true sense of the infinitude of Jehovah, their own God, who has addressed to them the consolations of Isaiah 40:1-11. The passage may be divided as follows:—

[76] Expositor, Second Series, Vol. VII. p. 96.

i. The argument, Isaiah 40:12-26.

(1) Isaiah 40:12-17. The greatness of Jehovah is illustrated by the magnitude of His operations as Creator (Isaiah 40:12), by the perfection and self-sufficiency of His knowledge (Isaiah 40:13-14), and by the insignificance in comparison with Him of all that exists (Isaiah 40:15-17).

(2) Isaiah 40:18-20. The thought of the transcendent greatness of Jehovah “suggests the idol, which also bears the name of God.… The magnitude of the true God suggests the littleness of the idol-god. He is incomparable; it is by no means so. Its genesis and manufacture are known. It is a cast metal, gilt article, upheld with chains, lest it should totter and tumble to the ground. Or it is a hard-wood tree fashioned into a block by a cunning workman[77].” This is the first of several sarcastic passages in which the processes of an idol factory are minutely described: Isaiah 41:6-7, Isaiah 44:9-20, Isaiah 46:6-8.

[77] Davidson, Ibid. p. 101.

(3) Isaiah 40:21-26. The thought of Isaiah 40:12-17 is now resumed and completed. The intelligent contemplation of nature (Isaiah 40:21 f.) or of history (Isaiah 40:23 f.) is enough to dispel the glamour of idolatry, and force the mind back on the Incomparableness of Him who is the Creator and Ruler of the world (Isaiah 40:25 f.).

ii. The application, Isaiah 40:27-31. If such be the God of Israel, how can the exiles think that He is either unobservant of their fate or indifferent to it? Their God is an everlasting God; His strength is unfailing, His understanding unsearchable; and they who wait on Him shall find in Him an inexhaustible source of life and energy.

Verse 11. - He shall feed his flock like a shepherd. The similitude is a favourite one with the psalmists (Psalm 77:20; Psalm 78:52; Psalm 80:1), and occurs again later on in Isaiah (Isaiah 49:9, 10). Its beauty and sweetness have been widely recognized. He shall gather the lambs; collect them, i.e., when they have strayed from the flock. Shall gently lead those that are with young; rather, those that give suck (comp. Genesis 33:3, where the same word is used). Ewes that are suckling their lambs require specially tender treatment. Isaiah 40:11The prophet dwells upon this, the redeeming side not the judicial, as he proceeds to place the image of the good shepherd by the side of that of the Lord Jehovah. "He will feed His flock like a shepherd, take the lambs in His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are giving suck." The flock is His people, now dispersed in a foreign land. The love with which He tends this flock is shown, by way of example, in His conduct towards the טלאים ( equals טליים from טלי equals טלה), the young lambs that have not long been born, and the עלות, those giving suck, lactantes (Vulg. fetae), not those that are sucking, sugentes (from עוּל med. Vav, to nourish). Such as cannot keep pace with the flock he takes in his arms, and carries in the bosom of his dress; and the mothers he does not overdrive, but ינהל (see at Psalm 23:2), lets them go gently alone, because they require care (Genesis 33:13). With this loving picture the prologue in Isaiah 40:1-11 is brought to a close. It stands at the head of the whole, like a divine inauguration of the prophet, and like the quintessence of what he is commanded to proclaim. Nevertheless it is also an integral part of the first address. For the questions which follow cannot possibly be the commencement of the prophecy, though it is not very clear how far they form a continuation.

The connection is the following: The prophet shows both didactically and paraenetically what kind of God it is whose appearance to redeem His people has been prophetically announced in Isaiah 40:1-11. He is the incomparably exalted One. This incomparable exaltation makes the ignorance of the worshipers of idols the more apparent, but it serves to comfort Israel. And Israel needs such consolation in its present banishment, in which it is so hard for it to comprehend the ways of God.

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