Isaiah 40:17
All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.
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(17) Less than nothing.—Literally, as things of nought.

Vanity.—Once more the tohu, or chaos, of Genesis 1:2—one of Isaiah’s favourite phrases (Isaiah 24:10, Isa_29:21, Isa_34:11).

40:12-17 All created beings shrink to nothing in comparison with the Creator. When the Lord, by his Spirit, made the world, none directed his Spirit, or gave advice what to do, or how to do it. The nations, in comparison of him, are as a drop which remains in the bucket, compared with the vast ocean; or as the small dust in the balance, which does not turn it, compared with all the earth. This magnifies God's love to the world, that, though it is of such small account and value with him, yet, for the redemption of it, he gave his only-begotten Son, Joh 3:16. The services of the church can make no addition to him. Our souls must have perished for ever, if the only Son of the Father had not given himself for us.Are as nothing - This expresses literally what had been expressed by the beautiful and striking imagery above.

Less than nothing - A strong hyperbolic expression denoting the utter insignificance of the nations as compared with God. Such expressions are common in the Scriptures.

And vanity - Hebrew, תהו tôhû - 'Emptiness;' the word which in Genesis 1:2 is rendered 'without form.'

17. (Ps 62:9; Da 4:35).

less than nothing—Maurer translates, as in Isa 41:24, "of nothing" (partitively; or expressive of the nature of a thing), a mere nothing.


Before him; either in his eyes, or being set against him, as this Hebrew word properly and most usually signifies.

Counted to him, either in his judgment, or in comparison of him.

Less than nothing; less than a thing of nought, or of no account or worth; or, as others render it, for nothing.

All nations before him are as nothing,.... As if they were nonentities, and were not real beings in comparison of him, who is the Being of beings, the author of all beings which exist in all nations; who are all in his sight, and are not only as grasshoppers, as is after mentioned, but even as nothing:

and they are counted to him as less than nothing, and vanity; if there is or could be such a thing less than nothing, that they are; and so they are accounted of by him; they are like the chaos out of which the earth was formed, when it was "tohu" and "bohu", the first of which words is used here; this serves to humble the pride of men, and to lessen the glory of the nations, and the inhabitants of them.

All nations before him are as {t} nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.

(t) He speaks all this to the intent that they would neither fear man nor put their trust in any, save only in God.

17. less than nothing] Better: of nought; “belonging to the category of nothingness” (Cheyne).

vanity] The Hebr. is tôhû, a word which means primarily “a waste,” and is applied in Genesis 1:2 to the primeval chaos (A.V. “without form”). See on ch. Isaiah 29:21, Isaiah 34:11. Here and in many other cases it is a synonym for nonentity.

Verse 17. - All nations; rather, all the nations; i.e. all the nations of the earth put together. In ver. 15 single "nations" had been declared to be of no account; now the same is said of all the nations of the earth collectively. They are accounted of God as 'ephes, nothingness, and tohu, chaos or confusion. Isaiah 40:17From the obverse of the thought in Isaiah 40:15 the prophet returns to the thought itself, and dwells upon it still further. "All the nations are as nothing before Him; they are regarded by Him as belonging to nullity and emptiness." 'Ephes is the end at which a thing ceases, and in an absolute sense that at which all being ceases, hence non-existence or nullity. Tōhū (from tâhâh, related to shâ'âh; vid., Comm. on Job, at Job 37:6), a horrible desolation, like the chaos of creation, where there is nothing definite, and therefore as good as nothing at all; min is hardly comparative in the sense of "more nothing than nothing itself" (Like Job 11:17, where "brighter" is to be supplied, or Micah 7:4, where "sharper" is similarly required), but is used in the same partitive sense as in Isaiah 41:24 (cf., Isaiah 44:11 and Psalm 62:10).
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