Isaiah 40

Prophecies of Comfort

THE Lord had not left the people of Israel and Judah without the warning and guidance of prophets in the dark days before Samaria and Jerusalem fell, nor were they left comfortless in their exile. There are chapters in the Book of Isaiah, from chapter xl. on, which must have been a strength and inspiration to the weary captives in Babylon. There is reason to believe that these glorious prophecies were spoken first to the people in that dark time, their very despair of their own strength preparing them to learn of the great power and mercy of the Lord. The prophecies give promise of return across the desert to their home,—to Jerusalem and the temple. And they look beyond the troubles of that place and time; they hold out a great hope not to the Jews only, but to all the world. They speak plainly of the coming of the Lord and of His great power to save. They take up the hope of earlier prophecies and express it again with a fulness of Divine tenderness and power, which brings comfort to all weary and discouraged souls.

Here is one of these Blessed messages of hope. ( William L. Worcester)

1 COMFORT ye, comfort ye, My people, saith your God.

VERSES 1, 2. Treating of the advent of the Lord, and of the New Church to be established by Him. That the New Church is signified by “Jerusalem,” to “the heart of which they should speak;” by “the warfare which is fulfilled,” is signified the state of combat against evils; by “the infirmity being expiated or pardoned,” is signified evil removed by the Lord; by “receiving double for all her sins,” is denoted much suffering in combat or temptation. A.E. 1115.

2 Speak ye to the heart of Jerusalem, and proclaim unto her, that her warfare is fulfilled; that her iniquity is pardoned; that she hath received from the hand of Jehovah double for all her sins.

Verse 2. As to tithe signification of “warfare” and of “wars,” when mentioned inthe Word, see Chap. vii, 1, Exposition.
That a man must combat against falses and evils, in order that they may be removed by the Lord, and that on this account the church is called “militant,” see Doctrine of Life, 98.
Her iniquity is pardoned [or expiated].-By “expiation” is meant deliverance from damnation, and hence the pardoning and cleansing of sin. A. C. 9076.
How false the doctrine of Expiation (or Atonement) is, as commonly received, may be seen illustrated and shewn in A. C. 9937.
She hath received from the hand of Jehovah double for all her sins. –By “double ” is signified much according to quantity and quality, as is evident from the following passages:-” Let them be confounded that persecute me; break them with a double breach [destruction].” (Jer. xvii. 18.) Also rmuch according to the quantity and quality of their conversion from evils, as in these passages :-” Comfort ye, My people; because her warfare is fulfilled, her iniquity is expiated; for she hath received from the hand of Jehovah double.” (Isa. xl. 1, 2.) Again-” Return ye to the stronghold, ye prisoners of hope; this day do I declare that I will render unto thee double.” (Zech. ix. 12.) As to the law of retaliation, it is according to the literal sense that they whom they had seduced and destroyed, were to recompense them [who had seduced], as in Apoc. xviii. 6; whereas, according to the spiritual sense, they were to recompense themselves, because every evil carries along with it its own punishment. The case herein is similar to what is said in many parts of the Word, that God will recompense and take vengeance upon the injustice and injuries done to Him, and will destroy the unjust out of anger and wrath, when nevertheless the evils themselves which they have committed against God, do this, consequently they do it to themselves; for this is the law of retaliation [jus talionis], which derives its origin from the following divine law:-“All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. vii. 12; Luke vi. 31.) This law, in heaven, is the law of mutual love or charity, from which is produced what is opposite in hell, namely, that what anyone does to another, the same is done to himself: not that they who are in heaven do it, but they who are in hell do it tothemselves, for the retribution of retaliation, grounded in their opposition to the above law of life in heaven, is, as it were, inherent in their evils. A. R. 762.

3 A voice of one proclaiming in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of Jehovah! make straight in the desert a highway for our God!
4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill be made low; and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places a plain:

Verses 3, 4. The subject here treated of is also concerning the advent of the Lord, and the Last Judgment which then took place. The “voice of one proclaiming in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way or Jehovah! make straight in the desert a highway for our God!” signifies that they should prepare themselves to receive the Lord; the “wilderness” is where there is no Good, because there is no Truth, thus where there is as yet no church. By “every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill be made low,” is signified that all the humble in heart, who are those that are in Goods and Truths, shall be received, for they who are received by the Lord are raised up to heaven; and by “every mountain and hill shall be made low,” is signified that all the high-minded, who are those that are in the love of self and the world, shall be put down. A. E. 405.

As to what is meant by “mountains and hills being made low” at the time of Judgment in the spiritual world, see above, Chap. ii. 12-17, Exposition.

5 And the glory of Jehovah shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of Jehovah hath spoken it.

Verses 5-7. These things are said concerning the advent of the Lord, and the revelation of Divine Truth about to take place from Him. which is understood by “the glory Jehovah shall be revealed,” and “they shall see it.” That then there would be no scientific truth nor spiritual truth with man is signified by “all flesh is grass, and all the glory [or sanctityJ thereof is as the flower of the field;” “grass” denoting scientific Truth, and the “flower of the field” spiritual Truth. That man is of such a nature and quality, is understood by “all flesh is grass,” and by “the grass withereth; verily the people is grass;” “all flesh” denoting every man, and the “people” [in a good sense] those who are in truths, but, in the opposite sense, those who are in falses. A. E. 507.

6 A voice saith, Proclaim! And I said, What shall I proclaim? All flesh is grass, and all the glory thereof is as the flower of the field:
7 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, because the spirit of Jehovah bloweth upon it: verily the people is grass.
8 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth; but the Word of our God shall stand for ever.

Verses 6-8. All flesh is grass, and all the glory thereof is as the flower of the field, &c.-That “grass,” “herb,” and what is “green” signify scientifics, or knowledges of Truth, in which there is some spiritual life, see Chap. xv. 6, Exposition, [By the “grass withering” and the “flower fading” is consequently signified that the knowledges of Truth and of Good are destitute of any living or spiritual principle. Hence it is that this knowledge, rendered worthless by its not being applied to the uses of the spiritual life, is contrasted in verse 8 with the living Word of God.]

9 O [daughter of] Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain: O [daughter of] Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid: say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!

Verses 9, 10. Inasmuch as these things are spoken of the Lord and of His kingdom, and this is signified by “Zion” and “Jerusalem,” therefore it is said that Zion and Jerusalem evangelize it, or “bring good tidings,”-Zion from the Good of Love, and Jerusalem from Truths of Doctrine.” Evangelization, or “good tidings,” from the Good of Love, is signified by “getting up upon the high mountain,” and from the Truths of Doctrine, by “lifting up the voice with strength.” By the “cities of Judah” is meant the doctrine of love to the Lord and of love to the neighbour in all its complex. The Lord, as to Divine Truth and as to Divine Good, who was about to come and effect Judgment, is understood by “Behold your God!behold, the Lord Jehovih shall come with power; for the Lord is called “God,” in the Word, from “Divine Truth, and “Jehovah” from Divine Good, and also the “Lord Jehovih;” to “come with power” is to effect judgment, thus to subjugate the cells. A. E. 850.
As to the specific meaning of “Jehovih,” as distinguished from “Jehovah,” see Chap. iii. 15, Exposition and note.
Verses 9-11. That these things are said concerning the advent of the Lord is evident, and hence it is that “Zion” and “Jesrusalem ” are called evangelizers, or “bringers of good tidings.” -By “Zion” are understood all who are of the celestial church, who are those that are principled in love to the Lord, wherefore it is said-” Get thee up into the high mountain;” the “high mountain” denoting that love, as may be seen above, n. 405. By “Jerusalem” are understood all who are of the spiritual church, who are those that are principled in the doctrine of genuine Truth, wherefore it is said-“Lift up thy voice with strength ;” by which is signified confession from genuine Truths. By the “cities of Judah,” to which it is said-” Behold your God! behold, the Lord Jehovih shall come with power” are signified doctrinals from the Word; by “cities” doctrinals, and by “Judah” the Word. That “Zion” and “Jerusalem” are called evangelizers by reason that the “Gospel”, [evangelium] signifies the advent of the Lord, is manifest, for it is said-” Behold your God! behold, the Lord Jehovih shall come with power.” That He will accomplish a Judgment, and defend those, who acknowledge Him, is signified by “His arm shall rule for Him, and “like a Shepherd shall He feed His flock,” &c. A. E. 612.

10 Behold, the Lord Jehovih shall come with power, and His arm shall rule for Him: behold, His reward is with Him, and the recompense of His work before Him.

Verse 10. And in the Apocalypse:-” Behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give to every one as his work shall be.” (xxii. 12.) “Behold, the Lord Jehovih shall come with power,” Behold, thy salvation cometh” and “Behold, He cometh quickly,” signify the flrst and second advent of the Lord. “His reward is with Him” signifies heaven and all things belonging thereto, inasmuch as where the Lord is, there is heaven; for heaven is not heaven from the angels there, but from the Lord with the angels. That they shall receive heaven according to the love and affection of Good and of Truth from the Lord, is understood by “the recompense of His work before Him,” and by ” giving to every one according as his work shall be;” by the “work” for which heaven shall be given as a reward, nothing else is meant than what proceeds from the love or affection of Good and of Truth, inasmuch as nothing else can produce heaven in man; for every work derives all that it has from the love or affection whence It proceeds, as the effect derives all that it has from the eflicient cause; wherefore, according to the quality of the love or affection, such is the work. Hence it may appear what is understood by “the work accordlng to which it shall be given,” and by “the recompense of His work.” A. E. 695.
As to the true nature of heavenly “reward” and “recornpense ” see above, Chap. iii. 10, Exposition.

Verses 10, 12. Treating also concerning the Lord, and concerning Divine Truth, from which is heaven and the church, and all wisdom. The advent of the Lord, and the arrangement of all things in the heavens by Him, from His own proper power, is signified by “Behold, the Lord Jehovih shall come with power, and His arm shall rule for Him ;” “His arm which shall rule” denoting His own power. The arrangement thence of all things in the heavens by Divine Truth, is signified by “Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of His hand; and hath meted out the heavens with His span; and hath comprehended the dust of the earth in measure; and hath weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?” By “measuring the waters,” is signified to designate divine Truths; by “meting out the heavens with a span,” is signified thence to set in order, or arrange the heavens; by “comprehending the dust of the earth in a measure,” is denoted the same with respect to things inferior; by “the hollow of the hand, the span and the measure,” are signified the same as by “measures” and by the “hand” namely, the quantity of a thing, and His own or proper power; by “weighing the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance,” is meant to bring all things into subordination and equilibrium; the “scales” and the “balance” denoting just equilibrium, and the “mountains” and “hills” the supenor heavens,-the “mountains” those which are principled in love to the Lord, and the” hills” those which are principled in charity to the neighbour. A. E. 629.

11 Like a shepherd shall He feed His flock; in His arms shall He gather up the lambs, and shall carry them in His bosom; and He shall gently lead them that give suck.

Verse. 11. By “the flock which He shall feed like a Shepherd,” are signified those who are in the good of charity and by “the lambs whom He shall gather up in His arms, are signified those who are in love to Him, which love, viewed in itself, is innocence, and therefore all who are principled in it are in the heaven of innocence, which is the third heaven and inasmuch as that love is signified by “lambs,” it is therefore also said:-“He shall gently lead them that give suck.” By “sucklings” and infants in the Word, are understood those who are in innocence as may be seen in the work concerning Heaven and Hell, n. 277, 280. A. E. 314.

12 Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of His hand; and hath meted out the Heavens by His span; and hath comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure; and hath weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?

Verse 12. In this passage is described, by “measures,” the just arrangement and estimation of all things in heaven and in the church, according to the quality of Good and of Truth. The “measures” by which this is described are the hollow of the hand, the span, the trient, scales, and balances. By “waters” are signified truths; by the “heavens,” interior or spiritual Truths and Goods; by the “dust of the earth,” exterior or natural truths and goods;-each appertaining to heaven and the church. By “mountains,” the goods of love; by “hills,” the goods of charity; and by “weighing them,” the estimation and arrangement of them according to their quality. That these words have such a significatlon, can only be seen from the science of correspondences. A. E. 33.

13 Who hath directed the Spirit of Jehovah, and as a man of His counsel hath informed Him?
14 With whom hath He consulted, that he should instruct Him, and teach Him the path of judgment; that he should teach Him knowledge, and shew Him the way of understanding?
15 Behold, the nations are as a drop from the bucket, and are accounted as the small dust of the balance: behold, the islands He taketh up as an atom;

Verses 13, 14. The “Spirit of Jehovah” is the Divine Truth; that to “teach Him the path of judgment” is to render Him knowing, intelligent, and wise, is evident. A. C. 9857.
Verse 15. Inasmuch as most things in the Word have also an opposite sense, so “islands,” in that sense, signify the falses opposite to the truths which are in the natural man. In that sense “islands” are mentioned in the above passage, where “nations” denote evils, and “islands” falses. A. E. 406.
As to the meaning of “peoples” and “nations,” see Chap. ix. 2, 3; xxv. 3, 7, 8, Exposition.

16 And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn; nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt-offering.
17 All the nations are as nothing before Him; they are accounted by Him as less than nothing, and emptiness.

Verse 16. [That is, the forests of Lebanon are not sufficient to supply fuel for burnt-offerings, adequate to the worship and praise of Jehovah. As to the meaning of “sacrifices” and of “burnt-offerings in worship, see Chap. 1. 11, Exposition.]

18 To whom therefore will ye liken God ? or what likeness will ye compare unto Him?
19 The workman casteth a graven image; and the smith overlayeth it with gold, and casteth chains of silver.

Verses 18-20. By these words is described how doctrine is forged and compacted by falses, thus by such things as are from self-derived intelligence, for all these are falses. By the “workman” and “smith,” likewise by the “Wise [or skilful] workman” whom he seeks to himself, is understood one that feigns and forms such a doctrine. That it may appear as good in the external form is signified by “overlaying it with gold;” that falses may cohere and appear as truths, is signified by “casting chains of silver;” that so it may be acknowledged, and that the false may not be seen, is signified by “Choosing wood that will not rot,” and by “preparing a graven image that will not be moved. A. E. 587. See also A. C. 8869, 10,406.
As to “graven and molten images,” see above, Chap. ii. 7, 8, 20, Exposition.

20 He that cannot afford an oblation chooseth wood that will not rot; he seeketh for himself a wise workman to prepare a graven image, which shall not be moved.

Verse 20. By “wood” here signified evil which is adored as good, for the “graven image” denotes the evil of worship; “wood that will not rot signifies some good from the Word which is adulterated, and thence becomes evil. This is said to “choose,” because that which is derived from the Word persuades, and thereby does not perish in the mind; for thus it is with every evil and false confirmed from the Word. His “seeking a wise [or skillful] workman,” signifies to seek one who, from self-deemed intelligence, has the glft of confirming and falsifying. A. E. 1145.

21 Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been declared unto you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth?

Verse 21. He who does not know what is signified by a “foundation,” and what by the ” earth,” conceives no otherwise than that the bottoms of the earth are here meant “the foundations of the earth,” although he may perceive, if he attends, that something else is meant; for what would it be “to know to hear, and to understand the foundations of the earth”? Hence it may be evident that by the “foundations of the earth” are signified such things as are of the church. That “earth,” in the Word, denotes the church, is very manifest from the passages in the Word where “earth” is named; see those which are cited, n. 9325; and that its ” foundations” are the truths of faith, for these truths of the church are foundations, as may also be still further manifest from the following passages:- They do not acknowledge, neither do they understand; they walk in darkness: all the foundations of the earth totter.” (Psalm lxxxii. 5.) That the “foundations of the earth” do not totter, but the truths of the church, to those who do not acknowledge and do not understand them, and who walk in darkness, is evident. A. C. 0043.
That the “earth” signifies the church, see Chap. xxiv., Exposition.

Verses 21-23. Have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth. It is He that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, that reduceth princes to nothing; that maketh the judges of the earth as emptiness-: By the “princes” who shall be reduced to nothing, and by the “judges of the earth” whom He maketh as emptiness, are signified those things which are from self-derived intelligence, and from self-derived judgment. A. E. 304.

22 It is He that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as locusts; that extendeth the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:

Verse 22. To “sit upon the circle of the earth,” means upon the heavens, for the heavens encompass the earth as a circle a centre; whence the Lord is called the” Most High,” and “He that dwelleth in the highest. “The inhabitants of the earth are as locusts,” signifies men in extremes or outermost principles for the “locust” signifies what is alive in ultimates, specifically truth in ultimates, and, in the opposite sense, the false. “Who extendeth the heavens as somewhat thin [or a curtain],” signifies Omnipotence to amplify the heavens at will; and ” spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in,” signifies nearly the same, but the latter expression denotes the amplification of the heavens as to Goods, and the former as to Truths. A. E. 799
Concerning “locusts,” see above, Chap. xxxiii. 4, Exposition.

23 That reduceth princes to nothing; that maketh the judges of the earth as emptiness.

Verse 23. “Princes,” in a good sense, are primary truths; but in a bad sense, as in this verse they are primary falses; and “judges” are the evils in connection with those falses. See Chap. i. 23; iii. 6, 7, Exposition,

24 Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown: yea, their trunk shall not strike its root in the earth: and He shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither; and the whirlwind shall bear them away like the stubble.
25 To whom then will ye liken Me, that I should be equal? saith the Holy One.

Verse 24. He shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither; and the whirlwind shall bear them away, &c.-As to “winds” and “tempests” at the period of Judgment, see Chap. xvii. 13, Exposition.

26 Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these. He leadeth forth their army by number; He calleth them all by name: through the greatness of His strength, and the mightiness of His power, not a man faileth.
27 Wherefore sayest thou then, O Jacob, and why speakest thou thus, O Israel: My way is bidden from Jehovah, and my judgment has passed away from my God?
28 Hast thou not known, bast thou not heard, that the everlasting God is Jehovah, the Creator of the ends of the earth? He fainteth not, neither is He weary; His understanding is unsearchable.

Verse 26. By “calling them all by name” is denoted that He knows the qualities of all, and gives to them according to their state of love and faith. A. E. 148.
He leadeth forth their army by number; He calleth them all by name, &c.-By “the host [or army] of the heavens,” in the literal sense, are understood the sun, the moon, and the stars, for these, in the Word, are called “the host of Jehovah;” but, in the spiritual sense, by the “host” are signified all the Goods and Truths of heaven and the church in the complex: for by the “sun” is signified the Good of Love, by the “moon” the Good of Faith, and by the “stars” the knowledges of Good and Truth. Hence it is evident what is signified by “Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these.” By “creating,” when predicated of Goods and Truths, is signified to form them in man, and so to regenerate him; by “leading forth their armies by number,” is signified to arrange Goods and Truths, according to their quality, in those with whom they are; to “call them all by name,” signifies to know the quality of all, and to dispose accordingly; for by “name,” in the Word, is signified the quality of a thing or state, as in John :-” His sheep hear His voice; and He calleth His own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.” (x. 3.) Where also it is said to “lead out” and to “call by name,” as above in Isaiah, and by these expressions the same things are signified as above. A. E. 453. See also A. C. 10,217.
Verses 26, 28. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these;-Jehovah, the Creator of the ends of the earth, &c.- These words treat of the reformation of man, which is signified by “to create;” by “the army which He leads forth “are understood all Goods and Truths; and “calling them by name” signifies reception according to the quality of each. By “creating the ends of the earth”, is signified the restoration [or establishment] of the church, thus the reformation of those who are there. A. E. 294.
What is further signified by a ” name,” and by being “called by a name,” see above, Chap. iv. 1; xxvi. 8, Exposition.

29 He giveth power to the faint; and to him that hath no might He increaseth strength.

Verse 29. ” Power” is predicated of Good, and “strength” of Truth. All power in the spiritual world is from Good by Truth, for without Good, Truth bas no power whatever. Truth is as a body, and Good is as the soul of that body; that the soul may do anything, it must be by its body. Hence it is evident that Truth without Good bas no power whatever, just as the body has no power without the soul, for the body is then a carcase; so also is Truth without Good. A. C. 6344.

30 The youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:

Verse 30. For the meaning of “young men,” both in a good and in a bad sense, see Chap. xiii. 17, 18; xxiii. 4; xxxi. 8, Exposition.

31 But they that wait upon Jehovah shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles: they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.

Verse 31. To “renew strength” is to increase as to the willing of Good; to “mount up with wings like eagles” is to increase as to the understanding of Truth, thus as to the rational. The subject here is explained, as elsewhere, by, two expressions, of which the one involves the Good which is of the will, and the other the Truth which is of the understanding: in like manner “to run and not be weary,” and “to walk and not faint.” A. C. 3001.
To “mount up with wings like eagles” is to be elevated to the knowledges of what is True and Good, and hence into intelligence; thus into the light of heaven, which is the Divine Truth, or the Divine-Spiritual principle, from which is all intelligence. A.R. 244; A.E. 281, 283.
“Eagles,” when mentioned in the Word, signify man’s rational principles, which, when predicated of the good, are true rational principles, but when predicated of the wicked, are false rational principles, or principles of mere ratiocination. “Birds,” in general, signify man’s knowledges, even in both a good and a bad sense, see n. 40, 745, 776; and each species corresponds to some particular species of knowledge. “Eagles,” as flying aloft and being sharp-sighted, signify rational principles. That this is the case, may appear from several passages in the Word, of which we shall adduce the following by way of confirmation; first, where “eagles” signify true rational principles, as in Moses:-” He found him in a desert land, and, in the waste howling wilderness; He led him about, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye. As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreacleth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: so Jehovah alone did lead him.” (Deut. xxxii. 10-12.) Instruction in the Truths and Goods of faith is what is here described and compared to an “eagle.” In the description and comparison is contained the whole process of instruction until man is made rational and spiritual; all comparisons in the Word are made by significatives, and hence in the present case by an “eagle” denoting the rational principle. So again-” And Moses went up unto God, and the Lord called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto Myself;” (Exod. x ix. 3,4.) where the signification is the same.
That “eagles,” in an opposite sense, signify rational principles not true, consequently false, is evident from the following passages:” Jehovah shall bring a nation against thee from afar, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand; a nation of fierce countenance, which shall not regard the person of the old, nor shew favour to the young.” (Deut. xxviii.49, 50.) “They who pursued us were swifter than eagles; they pursued us on the mountains, they have laid snares for us in the wilderness.”. (Lam. iv. 19.) And in Micah:-” Make thee bald, and shave thyself upon the sons of thy delights; dilate thy baldness as an eagle, because they have removed from thee.” (i. 16.) And in Obadiah:-” If thou exaltest thyself as an eagle, and if thou settest thy nest amongst the stars, thence will I pull thee down.” (Ver. 4.) In these passages by “eagle” is signified the false principle induced by reasonings grounded in the fallacies of the senses and in external appearances. A. C. 3901.

Author: Emanuel Swedenborg [Compiled by J. H. Smithson 1860]