An imminent change and a godly man
Matthew succeeds in retaining John’s emphatic edge as he distils the Baptist’s message into “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matt 3:2, NRSV). Thereafter he repeats John’s self depiction (John 1:19-23), ‘“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’”’(Matt 3:3, NRSV), and ensures his readers know its source. The two combine to present the authority of God re-asserting itself in the land.
Matthew’s quotation sets John’s ministry within the context of Isaiah 40:1-11, a poetic passage that explores the role of the Spirit in revealing the glory of God. The poem contrasts the enduring word of God with the transient splendour of men. It brings to the fore the need for godly judgement if a nation is to endure, it proclaims the establishment of such legislation as good news and it introduces the type of leaders who deliver it. It points toward a way of righteousness, defined by the Spirit’s wisdom and upon which God’s servants walk. It also highlights what needs to happen if people are to follow that way. However, in common with other fine poetry, it bears its heart to those aware of its subtleties.
The Greek word Matthew uses to describe John’s preaching denotes the proclamation of an official edict. Thus, as we hear these words, we need to imagine John’s hair shirt as the official livery of a town crier1. He resembled the herald who ran before Mordecai, to announce his masters rise to Kings favourite (Esth 6:9-11), or the servant proclaiming ‘Bow the knee’ after Joseph’s elevation within the land (Gen 41:42-44), his message not an appeal, but a command to recognise the reinstatement of God’s authority in the land2. The right response was repentance and the motivation for it was the proximity of the kingdom of Heaven
First Century Judaism recognized ‘the Kingdom of Heaven’ as theological shorthand for the realm in which the judgements of God were willingly obeyed. Thus, they could describe the personal acceptance of God’s sovereignty as ‘taking upon oneself the Kingdom of Heaven’ and its rejection as ‘casting off the Kingdom of Heaven’3. Matthew’s use of this phrase suited the tastes of Judaism, with its aversion to over-frequent mention of the divine name4, however for many ‘Kingdom of God5’ better conveys its scope.
John’s comments did not concern a recently established entity, for the rule of God is eternal (Ps 93:1-2, Lam 5:19) and applies to all creation (Ps 103:19-22). When he declared that the Kingdom was near, or at hand (Matt 3:2), he meant that God was impinging upon men in a purposeful way and demanding their immediate attention. God’s Kingdom had come alongside, just as Jesus drew near to the disciples on the Emmaus Road (Luke 24:15). It had arrived on the threshold, like Judas and the soldiers at the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:42). It had come like a vine harvest reaching the point for the vineyard’s master to collect his share of the fruit (Matt 21:34). For the same Greek word is used in all these contexts.
The poetry of Isaiah 40:1-11
Whilst John’s proclamation revealed that First Century Judah could no longer ignore the Kingdom, Matthew’s quotation from Isaiah (Matt 3:3, Isa 40:3) reveals why. John identified himself with the ‘voice in the wilderness’ that cries out from Isaiah’s chiastic poem (Isa 40:1-11), with its nested levels of imagery related to a central thought6. The poem’s basic structure looks like this:
A call for a judgement like that given by Joseph (Isa 40:1-2)
First voice calls for a return to God’s judgements that will exalt the humble, humble the proud and reveal the Glory of the Lord (Isa 40:3-5).
A duet of voices proclaim that human glory will wither before the Spirit, but that God’s decrees will stand (Isa 40:6-8).
Second voice announces the good news that God is coming as judge, rewarding the loyal and punishing the unfaithful, so revealing God’s glorious nature to men (Isa 40:9-10).
A call for judgement like that of Moses (Isa 40:11).
The poem, like the chapters that follow it, addresses Hezekiah’s failings during the period when his proud heart gave no return for God’s mercies and his lack of humility still brought wrath upon his nation (2 Chr 32:24-26). Its choice to focus upon Joseph was particularly pertinent for Hezekiah, for, like both Joseph and Moses, he led a newborn remnant nation, a divine creation resulting from a cataclysm. Moreover, like Joseph, he named his eldest son Manasseh (Gen 41:51, 2 Chr 32:33).
The enduring word of God
Woven into the fabric of this poem is the concept of a dual witness (cf. Deut 17:6) and we meet it, within the central and most significant section (Isa 40:6-8), as one voice calls for proclamation and the other asks what to proclaim7. Through the metaphors of flowers and grass, they declare that mankind’s glory is ephemeral in comparison with the eternal persistence of God’s word.
The fading flowers evoke Job’s description of mankind’s limited longevity and inevitable judgement (Job 14:1-3). For Job, flames wither the shoots of the arrogant and by God’s breathe they go away (Job 15:30-33). Emptiness is their reward for trusting in emptiness, they cast their flower before it sets fruit or shed the fruit before it matures. David presents a similar picture of human life, portraying people as like grass or flowers that the wind makes disappear (Ps 103:7-19, esp. 15-16). As Hebrew uses the same word for breath, spirit and wind, the desiccating summer wind becomes an easy metaphor for the breath of God, which in turn represents the activity of the Spirit. Thus, for Job, David and Isaiah, the Spirit’s work reveals what will last by leaving only that which complies with the word of the Lord (cf. 1 Cor 3:11-15). Hence, Isaiah’s central theme (Isa 40:6-8) is the contrast between the wisdom gained by humans in their brief span upon this world and that of the eternal God. He calls humanity to recognise that God’s timeless decrees are manifestly superior to the shallow rooted wisdom of men, which so easily shrivels and fades in the face of changes wrought by the Spirit.
By the time Isaiah spoke those words, Manasseh was probably already an arrogant prince, for he spent the last eleven years of his father’s reign as co-regent8. Thus, when Isaiah’s prophecy revisits the blowing that withers the grass, he underlines that princes are not exempt (Isa 40:21-24). Leaders in waiting like Moses and Joseph both felt the wind blow, but as the things they suffered humbled them, it proved to be a godly discipline that perfected them.
Calling for a straight way
David proclaims that the wicked will wither like grass or vanish like the glory of the fields (Ps 37:1-2,20), whilst those who utter righteous wisdom, i.e. the word of God, and speak justice will endure (Ps 37: 17-19, 28-31). His revelation, that enduring is linked to aligning your judgements with God’s words, provides a bridge to the next layer of Isaiah’s poem (Isa 40:3-5, 9-10), for it links such security to committing your way to the Lord, bringing forth righteousness and having the law of God in your heart (Ps 37:4-5, 31). Where people have placed their faith in ‘grass and flowers’ then someone, like David, must advocate that they trust the eternal word of God and follow the way of righteousness instead (cf. Rom 10:14-15). Thus, Isaiah’s two voices (Isa 40:3-4, 9), the voice of Zion and the voice in the wilderness bear witness that mankind should accept the Kingdom of Heaven and embrace its judgements. Precisely as John the Baptist later would (Matt 3:3).
When Isaiah calls for a straight, or constrained, ‘way’ in the desert, a broad place that lacks constraints (Isa 40:3), he is talking about a spiritual concept, a highway in the heart of those whose strength is the Lord and a road travelled by departing from evil (Ps 84:5, Prov 16:179). It is seeking the straightness that comes from accepting the judgements of God and learning by them10. To follow such a 'way', Moses encouraged people to adhere to the teaching and judgements of their priests (Deut 17:9-11). Thus, the wisdom of Proverbs advocates ‘Keep straight the path of your feet, and all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.’ (Prov 4:26-27, NRSV).
Straightness and wisdom link the leading limb of Isaiah’s nesting (Isa 40:3-5) and its trailing counterpart (Isa 40:9-10), for when God commands Zion to lift up her voice on top of the heights, it is to emulate Proverb’s personification of Wisdom (Prov 8:1-9:18)11. She is to call mankind to value righteous utterances that contain nothing crooked (Prov 8:8), for in her is sound counsel (Prov 8:14). God possessed her ‘at the beginning of His way’ (Prov 8:22, NKJV), when he first imposed order upon creation (Prov 8:22-31). For Isaiah that creation process had begun again and wisdom still walked the way of righteousness (Prov 8:20). Thus, the proclamation of good news is the work of a wise person, a counsellor (Prov 8:14, 13:10) who is answerable to the Lord and thus, like Joseph and Moses, has the Spirit of God (Gen 41:38, Num 11:24-25,2912).
Proverb’s personification of Wisdom declares that it is by her ‘straight’ utterances that rulers judge rightly (Prov 8:15-16). Thus, King David longed that God should make a straight way for him because of his foes, who had nothing reliable to say (Ps 5:8-9). God laments the lack of such wisdom, observing that he promised Jerusalem a messenger of good news, but there is no counsellor amongst them capable of fulfilling that brief (Isa 41:27-29). Once there was cause to herald good news, but for Hezekiah’s realm, in transition to the rule of Manasseh, that was no longer the case. Isaiah goes on to redress this absence by revealing the sort of servant whom God upholds as one on whom the Spirit rests and one who will bring forth justice. In the Servant Songs that follow (Isa 42:1-7, 49:1-6, 50:4-9, 52:13-53:12), the prophecy explores the nature of an ideal servant as it anticipates not only Christ, but also a host of others, peoples like Israel (Isa 44:21) and men like Cyrus (Isa 44:28), all following in the footsteps of Moses and Joseph.
Removing the obstacles
As Isaiah reminds us, the role of a godly man was to reveal the glory of God’s eternal word through Spirit inspired wise judgements. Through Isaiah, the Lord issues an edict concerning this ‘way’. It is to be ‘straightened’ by exalting the lowly valleys, humbling the proud mountains, removing the uneven ground and the rough places that impede progress (Isa 40:4-5, cf. Job 5:11, Isa 2:12-17). There is a subtle wordplay (polysemy) here, for the Hebrew for ‘uneven’ or ‘crooked’ can also mean ‘deceitful’ whilst that for ‘level’ can also means ‘judged with justice’13. The word rendered ‘rough places’ shares the same root as that for ‘pride’ whilst valleys were places traditionally associated with God’s judgement14. Thus, God is calling for just judgement to level the unevenness of deceitful practices, for level places in which justice prevails to replace the rough places created by pride, a process that exalts the meek but humbles the proud. Psalm 75 provides a similar picture as it cautions the boastful and insolent that ‘God is the Judge: He puts down one, And exalts another. (Ps 75:7, NKJV).
Isaiah’s declaration that God will come like a ‘mighty one’ ruling by his arm (Isa 40:10), confirms that the Lord is coming to judge, for Psalm 50 portrays God as the Mighty One who comes to judge (Ps 50:1-5) and Isaiah elsewhere makes the same association (Isa 1:24-27). Such judgement is at the very heart of making a straight path, for to make straight paths people must both acknowledge God in all their ways and recognise reproving judgments as a loving father’s discipline (Prov 3:6, 11)15.
When God comes in power, it is to bring reward and recompense (Isa 40:10) and, as David confirmed (2 Sam 22:21, Ps 18:20-22), which a person experienced related to the keeping of God’s ways and ordinances. The same principle lies behind Jesus’ Beatitudes (Matt 5:3-10), where, once you realise that priests are the scripture’s peacemakers, each of the first seven beatitudes describes a scripturally anticipated outcome of establishing the ‘way’ (Isa 57:14-15; Isa 57:7-18; Ps 37:5-11; Ps 107:4-9; Dan 4:27-37; Ps 18:24-30 cf. Ps 24:4-5, Job 17:9; Mal 2:6-10, cf. Num 25:12). When God’s servants start revealing godly judgements with integrity, then it is bad news for the arrogant and proud, but good news for those who humbly accept them. Thus the ‘reward and recompense’ (Isa 40:10), being the equivalent of the earlier hill levelling and valley filling (Isa 40:4-5), completes the chiasm’s symmetry.
The appearance of God’s Glory
As a paraphrase of Isaiah 40’s triumphant statement ‘Behold your God!’ (Isa 40:9) one ancient Jewish commentator used ‘The kingdom of your God is revealed’16, a phrase rather reminiscent of John’s, “the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matt 3:3b, NRSV). In 40:5, all flesh sees the Glory, whilst in 40:9 a general declaration calls everyone to behold God, However, as to see God is to see God’s Glory, both sides of the chiasm envisage a similar revelation.
Isaiah had already foreseen that the restoration of Godly judgement taking place in the wilderness would be accompanied by a revelation of God’s Glory (Isa 35:1-2). However, by clarifying who will see it, the prophecy adds context to the event. This revelation was as much a means of facilitating the process as its outcome, for such ‘universal’ manifestations of God’s grandeur always serve to confirm the authority of those who bring God’s judgements. One quashed the grumbling against Moses in the Wilderness of Sin (Exodus 16:6-8), others routed Korah’s mutiny (Num 16:19) and restrained the rebellion that following the spies’ unfavourable report (Num 14:10). Such an appearance of the Glory also confirmed the giving of the commandments (Exod 24:16), Aaron’s priesthood (Lev 9:23) and Solomon’s temple (2 Chr 5:14). By glorifying Jesus, the raising of Lazarus revealed the Glory of God authenticating Jesus ministry for the Pharisees benefit (John 11:4, 40), whilst Acts portrays the Glory of Christ performing a similar function in the case of Saul (Acts 9:3-4).
Isaiah’s text (Isa 40:5 & 9) provides reassurance to those, like John, who seek the straight within a society accustomed to crookedness. Through their godly decisions, they reveal the Glory of the Lord to all mankind and, as David promised, such people shine like the midday sun (Ps 37:2-6, Isa 60:19-20, Rev 21:23-24). They become, as Moses once did (Exod 34:29-35), luminous with the transferred Glory of the Lord (Isa 60:1-3, 19-20) and, just as it did at Sinai (Deut 5:22-24), the Glory induces the fear of God in sinful men (cf. Acts 6:1517). No wonder Isaiah urged the remnant Jerusalem not to fear but to declare the good news.
Inspiration from a threefold psalm
1 Chronicles contains a psalm of David that exhibits strong thematic links with Isaiah 40 (1 Chr 16:8-36), and in which the context of good news is again the appearance of God as judge. It too juxtaposes the eternal nature of God’s words (v15-17), upholding God’s anointed ones (v21-22), recounting God’s Glory amongst everyone (v24), the contrast between God and humanity (v25-26) and the proclamation of good news (v23). However, the proclamation of good news marks a significant point in the psalm, for the verses preceding it provides the initial part of Psalm 105, whilst the remainder reoccur with a few slight alterations as Psalm 96.
To those who sung the psalms, the need to remember the minor additions for Psalm 96 served to emphasise their content. They prefix the proclamation of good news with the phrase ‘Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth,’ insert ‘He will judge the people fairly’ and add the final couplet ‘he will judge the world with fairness and the peoples with truth’ (Ps 96:1, 10, 13, NCV). These additions serves to remind us it is the fairness of God’s judgements that make them such good news.
Isaiah’s chiasm should certainly be read in the light of Psalm 96, for, after contrasting God’s wisdom with the works of man in the later part of chapter 40 (Isa 40:12-31) and challenging the nations to decide who is right (Isa 41:1-4), Isaiah returns to his earlier themes with the injunction ‘Sing a new song to the Lord; sing his praise everywhere on the earth’ (Isa 42:10, NCV).. That phrase introduces an assurence that a remnant was being brought to birth and its nativity involved the Lord drying up vegetation, laying waste mountains and making rough places smooth (Isa 42:14-16). Through this process, God would deliver a re-born people by leading the blind along an unfamiliar path, i.e. the straight ‘way’.
As Isaiah 40 evokes both the Chronicles psalm and Psalm 96, so it also touches upon the topics of Psalm 105. That psalms alternative ending (Ps 105:16-45) recounts how God sent Joseph ahead of his brothers and how his testing18 produced a man able to judge his elders with godly wisdom. It then concludes by recalling how Moses delivered God’s people out of Egypt so that they could obey God’s laws and statutes19. Again, the differences from the Chronicles psalm meant a singer had to recall whether to sing about good news and the revelation of God’s glory (for the 1 Chronicles version) or Joseph and Moses (for the Psalm 105 version), thus marrying the good news of salvation with the godly judges who brought it. That association is precisely the one made by the final tier of Isaiah 40’s chiasm.
The comfort of Joseph
Turning to the outermost layer of Isaiah’s poetry, we find familiar words, ‘Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD’S hand double for all her sins’ (Isa 40:1-2, KJV). These refer directly to Joseph judging the repentant sons of Israel, for the mention of ‘hand’ in connection with ‘double for sin’ refers to the advice Jacob gave his sons concerning their return before ‘the Egyptian’ (Gen 43:12-1520). In Isaiah 40, God, assuming the role of ‘Father’, reassures the repentant children of Israel that they have received the double for their sins so they need not fear coming before a godly judge21.
Once Joseph’s brothers reappeared, double in hand, we find the story again touching on the subject matter of Isaiah 40, for Joseph exalted the lowly Benjamin, the least of the brothers, by giving him the largest portion at their meal (Gen 43:33-34). Moreover, he brought arrogant Judah to accepts responsibility for his brothers’ crime and humble himself on Benjamin’s behalf, to the point of offering to serve as a slave (Gen 44:32-33)22. Joseph’s godly judgements afflicted trouble on his family as he tested them, assessing Benjamin’s reaction to being set above his brothers and then to false accusation, simultaneously evaluating his brothers’ reaction to a son of Rachel being considered more highly than them and to that son’s subsequent imprisonment.
Isaiah’s prophecy interweaves with Joseph’s story one further time amidst the tensions created when Jacob’s death robbed the brothers of their father’s protective presence and left them facing the possibility of retribution from Joseph (Gen 50:15-21). At that point, they came to Joseph repenting of their sins and asking him to honour his father and accept them. Joseph, honouring his Heavenly Father, did precisely that, as he spoke tenderly to them and comforted them.
It is interesting to note in passing Isaiah’s emphatic doubling of the word ‘comfort’, a Hebrew word associated in other grammatical constructs with changing ones mind or repentance23. For, taking account of the Joseph connections, one might paraphrase Isaiah 40:1-2 along the following lines: Reassure my repentant people that I will continue to care for them, the hostility that once existed between us is truly over and their sins against me have indeed been pardoned. They have received from my hand the ‘double’ for their sins [so they need not fear the judgement].
Moses and his Mighty shepherds
Just as one Spirit-led judge inhabits the leading limb of the chiasmus (Isa 40:1-2), so another occupies its trailing edge (Isa 40:10-11), on the one hand Joseph, on the other Moses. Shepherding references establish the link with Joseph (cf. Gen 49:24), but here they intermingle with images of being carried and of God’s mighty arm at work. Isaiah would juxtapose these three again in a passage that has in view the working of God’s mighty arm during exodus (Isa 63:11-14). At that later time, the prophet reflects on Judah’s descent into rebellion. The Lord had trusted Israel not to deal falsely and became their saviour. Thereafter God suffered with them in their affliction and the angel of the Lord delivered them, in love and mercy redeeming them, lifting them and carrying them. Despite this, they rebelled and God fought against them, until they recalled the days of Moses and they lamented ‘Where is he that brought them up out of the sea with the shepherd of his flock? where is he that put his holy Spirit within him? That led them by the right hand of Moses with his glorious arm’ (Isa 63:11b-12a, KJV)24. This text alludes to an incident in the Wilderness of Sin, when the difficulty of shepherding newborn Israel had so vexed Moses that he exclaimed to his Lord “Did I conceive all these people? Did I beget them, that You should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a guardian carries a nursing child,’ to the land which You swore to their fathers?” (Num 11:12, NKJV). In response, the Lord put the Spirit that was upon Moses upon seventy chosen men, wise Spirit-guided shepherds who could be trusted to pronounce God's judgements and carry these lambs in their bosom all the way to the Promised Land. Thus, through Isaiah’s mention of God’s arm and a shepherd carrying lambs in his bosom (Isa 40:11), Isaiah provided a reminder that it is through caring godly leader like Moses that the Spirit shepherd’s people along the way of righteousness.
The compassion to judge
At the heart of Isaiah’s chiasm (Isa 40:6), he uses the word ḥesed for the ‘beauty’ (ESV) of the grass. It is a word more frequently rendered ‘mercy’ (NKJV), ‘kindness’ (NASV) or ‘steadfast love’ (ESV). This breadth of meaning hints at a contrast envisaged by the Apostle Peter, between the farsighted compassion of God’s word and short-sightedly fickle human kindness. He quoted Isaiah 40 in support of the key teaching that sincere love for the brethren flows from being born of the imperishable through the enduring word of God (1 Pet 1:23-25). That eternal word was found on the lips of Spirit anointed leaders like Moses and Joseph, they would be found again on those of any godly leader to come.
The lives of Joseph and Moses show some striking similarities. Both had a God given mandate to rule over all the children of Israel, Moses as a member of Pharaoh’s household (Exod 2:10), Joseph through his dreams (Gen 37:5-10). Both knew the Lord, but both sought to implement God’s agenda in the way they saw fit, Moses by killing the Egyptian (Exodus 2:11-12), Joseph by announcing his dreams to his family (Gen 37:5-10). Both found their efforts to serve God failed and left them humiliated, Moses through enforced exile (Exodus 2:15), Joseph through sale as a slave and subsequent imprisonment (Gen 37:28, 39:20). God miraculously restored both to a place of privilege and status, Moses, through the burning bush (Exod 3:2), Joseph through interpreting Pharaoh’s dream (Gen 41:14-32). Thus, God’s disciplining judgements refined both until they were ready for the task of leading the remnant Israel, which would in turn be disciplined by God (cf. Deut 11:1-3). By associating Joseph and Moses, the Isaiah passage underlines that God’s chosen leaders walk the way of righteousness ahead of those they come to lead, as they go to prepare a spiritual place for which any physical location is no more than a transient metaphor. However, it also emphasises that it is the Spirit’s wisdom that makes such men compassionate judges.
In Psalm 103, David introduces the theme of mankind’s transitory nature with reassuring phrases that evoke Isaiah 40’s emphasis on the compassionate aspect of a leader’s role. The Lord forgives sin because He knows that people are like clay and their lives are like grass that withers. The Lord is fair and merciful, as a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord is compassionate toward those who fear Him. As proverb’s reminds us, “Fools reject their parents’ correction, but anyone who accepts correction is wise.” (Prov 15:5 NCV). Thus, for children of a Heavenly Father, the key to godly wisdom lies in accepting their Father’s correction (Prov 3:11-12). The assurance of considerate judgement, like that expected of a father, helps to motivate those who travel the ‘way’, thus Isaiah depicts them as eager for God’s judgements and willing to learning through them (Isa 26:7-10)25. In other words, as for Joseph’s brothers, Moses’ rebellious people or Hezekiah’s son26, the ‘way’ is only accessible by repentance.
God does not refine men and send them to prepare a place only that they should remain alone. Rather, it is that they may become standard bearers around whom the Spirit can gather those who desire the way of righteousness. Thus, when Isaiah later summarised the first part of Isaiah 40 (Isa 40:1-11, 62:10-11), along with the way, proclamation of salvation (the partner of good news), reward and recompense, he introduces the concept of a rallying point. John became just such an individual, for a brief time, God’s man in charge of pronouncing judgements and de-facto shepherd of a penitent flock.
Proclaiming the way
People had gone out into the wilderness to see a prophet and, as is so often the way with prophets, they had received a challenge. John proclaimed Judea’s immediate need to pay attention to the judgements of the Kingdom and he called for God’s people to recognise the fading finery of men and attend to the eternal Glory of God’s word. His voice crying in the wilderness sought to create something in the hearts of men, a way of righteousness through which almighty God could reveal himself to men.
The Isaiah quotation hints that the problem in John’s nation was not a lack of religious fervour, but a surfeit of leaders driven by human compassion as opposed to God’s eternal word. As Matthew’s quotation identifies John’s voice with that of Proverb’s personified Wisdom, it portrays him as the herald of good news. A godly judge had come, one who, like Joseph and Moses, had the Spirit given wisdom to bring the judgements of God. This was Jesus, a priest-king with the authority of Melchizedek, a Moses-like prophet and a seed of Eve in whom the Spirit could reside without measure. As Isaiah’s words anticipated, he would be a shepherd who leads his flock and a compassionate ruler in whom was the divine Spirit. In support of him, all eyes would see the Glory of the Lord as he humbled the proud and exalted the poor. In anticipation of this, John cried repent, for this was a new creation and he had Isaiah’s assurance, the repentant need not fear this awesome judge, for God would guarantee they had the double in their hand.
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1 Otto Schmitz, “παραγγέλλω, παραγγελία,” TDNT, 5:761-765; Gerhard Friedrich, “κηρύσσω,” TDNT, 3:697-717.
2 John’s words cannot apply to Jesus, as Jesus proclaimed the same (Matt 4:17).
3 Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, 1:267-278.
4 For the custom of Judaism see Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, 1:266-267.
5 Jesus used this as a synonym for Kingdom of Heaven (Matt 19:23-24).
6 The chiasm in v1-11 has the structure A1:v1-2, B1:v3-5, C:v6-8, B2:v9-10, A2:v11.
7 One voice tells the other what to say and thus it is implied that both voices speak the words
8 Kaiser, History of Israel, 381-82.
9 Whilst many translations do not use ‘highway’ the word used in both cases is the same as in Isaiah 40:3.
10 Donald J Wiseman, “930 יָשַׁר (yāšar) be level, straight, (up) right, just, lawful,” TWOT, 417-18; Swanson, “2318 II. εὐθύς (euthys), εῖα (eia), ύ (y),” Dictionary of Biblical Languages, n.p.
11 The Bible equates Jerusalem and Zion (2 Kgs 19:21) and Isaiah speaks of both as a woman (Isa 37:22, 40:2). James provides a valuable pointer to the interpretation of Isaiah 40:9 when he juxtaposes fading flowers, social levelling and admonition to pray for wisdom (Jas 1:5-11).
12 Job equates God’s wisdom and might with counsel and understanding (Job 12:13, 16).
13 Strong, “6121 עָקֹב, עָקֹב,” Concordance, n.p.; Donald J. Wiseman, “930 יָשַׁר (yāšar) be level, straight, (up) right, just, lawful,” TWOT, 417-418.
14 John N. Oswalt, “271 בָּקַע (bāqa˓) to cleave, divide, break through, break up, rip up, tear,” TWOT, 123). Some translations render the word ‘smooth’ to contrast with rugged, hence obscuring the conceptual polysemy. The association of valleys with judgement is plainly evident (Joel 3:12) and they are places of division (the root of the word), both geographically and, when God enters into judgement, spiritually.
15 The writer of the letter to the Hebrews inverted this logic to encourage readers to view suffering as the discipline of a loving father and to respond by making straight paths (Heb 12:9-13).
16 Huckel, “Zechariah 14:9. Babylonian Talmud, Pesahim 50a.,” Rabbinic Messiah, n.p.
17 Stephen’s face, being like that of an angel (Rev 10:1), shone.
18 The word in Psalm 105:19 that is often translated ‘tested’ is the same one used in Isaiah 48:10 and was derived from the precious metal purification process.
19 The text mentions Aaron as well as Moses, however Aaron was no more than Moses mouthpiece at that point.
20 To test his brothers, Joseph faced them with the same choice they made when they sold him (Gen 42:30-36), profit or person, serve self or serve God. The continuing famine revealed the true nature of their choice as seek pardon or perish. Therefore, to allay their fear concerning the money, Jacob instructed the brothers to take double in their hand and to throw themselves on Joseph’s mercy. That ‘double’ was later enshrined in Moses’ law (Exod 22:4-9).
21 Zechariah confirms this association by juxtaposing the giving of the double with God drawing people out of the waterless pit (Zech 9:11-12) like that Joseph was thrown into (Gen 37:23, cf. Gen 50:20).
22 Thus completing the process begun by Tamar’s stand (Gen 38:24-26).
23 Swanson, “5714 נָחַם (nā∙ḥǎm),” Dictionary of Biblical Languages, n.p.
24 Some manuscripts read Shepherds rather than Shepherd (NASB95 footnote).
25 A frequent theme in the NT (e.g. 1 Cor 11:32, Heb 12:5-12, Rev 3:19)
26 Manasseh’s time as a prisoner brought about one of the Bible’s more spectacular repentances (2 Chr 33:10-16).