Chapter 40 is divided into several parts. The first, including verses 1 through 5, is made familiar to us by the words of Handel’s Messiah. In this first part Isaiah presents several important prophecies concerning the coming of Christ, the knowledge of which would comfort the people. The second part, comprising verses 6 through 9, is a foreshadowing of what John the Baptist would do in preparing the way for the Lord. This second part compares the fragile mortal state of mankind with the permanence of the word of God, which should stand forever. The third part, comprising verses 10 and 11, develops the metaphor of Messiah as the Good Shepherd. Verses describing the Good Shepherd are also memorialized in Handel’s Messiah. The fourth part, comprising verses 12 through 26, describes the omnipotence and omniscience of God, contrasting His power with the impotence of dumb idols and the utter foolishness of men in worshiping them. The fifth and final part, comprising verses 27 through 31, attests that those who follow the Lord will be strengthened.
This chapter marks the beginning of a major division in the Book of Isaiah, comprising chapters 40 through 54, in which the ancient nation of Israel is described as being in exile in the world at large, interacting with people and events.1
Verse 1 states: “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.” This archaic reflexive verb form may not ring familiar to the modern English speaker. It means, simply, “be ye comforted.” The original Hebrew meaning is “to be consoled;” it also means “to repent.”2
Verse 1 serves as introduction to the next four verses, which present separate prophecies about the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Why should we be comforted? Because of the knowledge of these important things that will herald the advent of the Savior. Why should we repent? Because the coming of the Lord is nigh.
Verse 2 states: “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.”3 The Hebrew meaning translated as “warfare” is “hard service.”4 Because of the infinite sacrifice of the Lord, sins may be forgiven through repentance—both individually and as a people. Under the Law of Moses, restitution involved double repayment: “For all manner of trespass…. whom the judges shall condemn, he shall pay double unto his neighbour.”5 At the time of restoration of Judah in the latter days preparatory to the Lord’s Second Coming, Judah will have paid in full for her sins under the law. This phrase also serves as a warning that because of the degree of knowledge given to all of Israel, should she forsake this higher knowledge the penalties would be severe.
Another possible meaning for the message of comfort and consolation presented in verses 1 and 2 is that had Jerusalem accepted John the Baptist and his preparatory mission, her iniquity would have been pardoned.
In Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord elaborates: “For of him unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation.”6 Compare the words of Jesus in the New Testament: “But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.”7
Verse 3 foretells the preparatory mission of John the Baptist: “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”8 The pathway, a metaphor meaning knowledge of the Plan of Salvation,9 was to be prepared in advance of Jesus Christ, the Messiah who would come.
John the Baptist would go before the Messiah to prepare the way. Fulfillment of this prophecy is acknowledged in the New Testament:
For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias [Isaiah], saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.
Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan,
And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.10
Nephi recited the teachings of his father, Lehi, regarding John the Baptist:
And he spake also concerning a prophet who should come before the Messiah, to prepare the way of the Lord—
Yea, even he should go forth and cry in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight; for there standeth one among you whom ye know not; and he is mightier than I, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose. And much spake my father concerning this thing.
And my father said he should baptize in Bethabara, beyond Jordan; and he also said he should baptize with water; even that he should baptize the Messiah with water.
And after he had baptized the Messiah with water, he should behold and bear record that he had baptized the Lamb of God, who should take away the sins of the world.11
To His latter-day followers, the Lord applies the same mandate to “make his paths straight” as part of the Restoration, preparatory to the Lord’s Second Coming: “Yea, open your mouths and they shall be filled, saying: Repent, repent, and prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”12
The Lord further explains to the latter-day saints:
Hearken, and lo, a voice as of one sent down from on high, who is mighty and powerful…whose voice is unto men—Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight….
Yea, a voice crying—Prepare ye the way of the Lord, prepare ye the supper of the Lamb, make ready for the Bridegroom.13
“Make straight in the desert a highway” foretells the preparatory function of John the Baptist and as a type foretells the establishment of Zion in the wilderness before the Lord’s Second Coming. Previously, in Chapter 35, Isaiah foretold:
And an highway shall be there [in the wilderness], and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.14
The significance of the highway is spiritual, meaning the “narrow way” having a “strait gate.” Compare Jesus’ words, recorded by Matthew: “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”15
The way opened by the Lord for the children of Israel to pass over the Red Sea is a type for the spiritual highway—the strait and narrow way.16 The Lord’s way will be so plain that travelers thereon, even though they may be fools, will have no trouble following it as long as they are obedient.17
Just as John the Baptist was driven into the wilderness to escape persecution, the Latter-day Saints were forced to flee their beloved city—Nauvoo, Illinois—due to persecution. The prophet Joseph Smith had been martyred. His successor, Brigham Young, following guidance given him by the Lord18 and earlier by Joseph Smith, led the Latter-day Saints to the Great Basin, an uninhabited place in the American west where they established a society in which they could practice the newly-restored Christian religion and increase in strength, less hindered by detractors.
Verses 1 through 3 are set to music in Handel’s Messiah, Part 1 No. 2—Recitative for Tenor, “Comfort Ye My People.”
Regarding John the Baptist, the Lord revealed the following to Joseph Smith:
For he was baptized while he was yet in his childhood, and was ordained by the angel of God at the time he was eight days old unto this power, to overthrow the kingdom of the Jews, and to make straight the way of the Lord before the face of his people, to prepare them for the coming of the Lord, in whose hand is given all power (emphasis added).19
Verse 4 describes metaphorically the restoration of the gospel, including the united social order practiced among the believers, to be brought about before the coming of the Messiah: “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.” The Hebrew meaning for “rough places” is “mountain chains.”20 This verse describes not only the mission of John the Baptist in ushering in the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ; as a type it also describes the role of Joseph Smith, the prophet of the latter-day restoration. The passage may also refer to topographic changes that will take place before the Second Coming of the Lord as a result of cataclysmic earthquakes,21 but it is clearly not the meaning that applies to the mission of John the Baptist or the latter‑day restoration of the gospel.
James, the brother of Jesus,22 interprets the meaning: “Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.”23 It is clear because of the phrase “as the flower of the grass he shall pass away” that James is referring to this passage in this chapter of Isaiah. In verse 6, Isaiah states: “The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field.”24 According to this prophecy it would be John the Baptist’s responsibility to introduce the united social order among his adherents, although his having done so is not spelled out in the New Testament.
James, in the verse just quoted, expands upon the concept that God is not a respecter of persons and will answer the prayer of him who asks in faith.25 Notably, it was while he was reading a preceding verse in the first chapter of James that Joseph Smith was prompted to approach the Lord in prayer, which ultimately resulted in the restoration of the gospel.26
In Doctrine and Covenants the Lord describes how the saints in the latter days are to set up the law of consecration to provide for their temporal needs, using words similar to those of James: “But it must needs be done in mine own way; and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low (emphasis added).”27
Further, “crooked” false doctrines or “crooked” pathways that purportedly lead to eternal life would be made straight, and “rough places,” meaning confusing doctrines that are hard to understand, would be made plain to the understanding.
The words of verse 4 form the text for Handel’s Messiah, Part 1 No. 3—Air for Tenor, “Every Valley Shall Be Exalted.”
Verse 5 concludes the set of Messianic concepts that are to provide comfort to the Lord’s people: “And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.”
The Lord gives more information regarding the foretold event:
Behold, it is my will, that all they who call on my name, and worship me according to mine everlasting gospel, should gather together, and stand in holy places;
And prepare for the revelation which is to come, when the veil of the covering of my temple, in my tabernacle, which hideth the earth, shall be taken off, and all flesh shall see me together (emphasis added).28
The meaning is that those who call upon the name of the Lord and worship Him in purity will be directed to gather in holy places for their protection, to undergo preparation for the coming of the Lord which is to follow. Then the Lord will be revealed, by removal of a veil that covers His heavenly temple and tabernacle. Surely, it will be of great comfort to the Lord’s righteous people for their Lord, Jesus Christ, to be revealed to the whole earth.
Verses 3 through 5 are quoted by Luke in the New Testament, also identifying John the Baptist as “one crying in the wilderness.”29
The words of verse 5 comprise the text of Handel’s Messiah, Part 1 No. 4—Chorus, “And the Glory of the Lord.” Verse 5 is cited in an important doctrinal statement on Christ by the living Apostles:
We testify that He will someday return to earth. “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.” He will rule as King of Kings and reign as Lord of Lords, and every knee shall bend and every tongue shall speak in worship before Him. Each of us will stand to be judged of Him according to our works and the desires of our hearts.30
Verses 6 through 8 foretell the message of John the Baptist, first introduced in verse 3. Verse 6 begins: “The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry?” The message is: “All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field.” This verse is paraphrased by James, as cited above.31
Verses 3 through 6 contain a chiasm:
A: (3) The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness,
B: Prepare ye the way of the LORD,
C: make straight in the desert
D: a highway for our God.
E: (4) Every valley shall be exalted,
E: and every mountain and hill shall be made low:
D: and the crooked
C: shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:
B: (5) And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
A: (6) The voice said, Cry….
“The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness” is equivalent to “the voice said, cry….” In both cases, the voice is that of John the Baptist. “Prepare ye the way of The LORD” complements “and the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,” meaning that the preparation foretold is for the glorious Second Coming of the Lord. “Make straight in the desert a highway for our God” is complemented by “and the crooked shall be made straight, “ indicating that the strait and narrow way to exaltation, made crooked through apostasy, is what should be made straight. “Every valley shall be exalted” contrasts with “every mountain and hill shall be made low.” These phrases mean that those of high position or temporal estate would be humbled and the poor would be uplifted under the Lord’s united social order to be introduced by John the Baptist.
Verse 7 continues the message to be delivered by John the Baptist: “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.”32 The last phrase of this verse explains the metaphor. “Spirit” and “wind” are different meanings of the same Hebrew word.33 Isaiah’s meaning may be that winds—representing mortal conditions in general—caused or allowed by the Lord bring about the temporality of the human condition.
Verses 5 through 7 contain a chiasm:
A: (5) And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
B: and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
C: (6) The voice said, Cry.
C: And he said, What shall I cry?
B: All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field:
A: (7) The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.
“The glory of the Lord shall be revealed” is compared to “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it.” During our temporary mortal state, each must obtain the influence of the Spirit in order to abide the glory of the Lord’s Second Coming. “All flesh shall see it together” is matched with “all flesh is grass,” warning us that we would be consumed at His coming like dry grass unless we have the Spirit with us.
Verse 8 contrasts the temporality of man in his mortal state with the permanence of God: “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.” All is temporary pertaining to mortal man, whereas God and His words are eternal and will stand forever. Note the parallel statements of verses 7 and 8: “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth” is first matched with “because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass” in verse 7, and then contrasted with “but the word of our God shall stand for ever” in verse 8. The meaning is that whereas man’s state is mortal and temporary, the word of God is eternal. Again, note that “spirit” and “wind” are translated from the same Hebrew word.34
The Apostle Peter quoted verses 6 through 8, expanding upon their meaning:
For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:
But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.35
Verse 9 declares: “O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O 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!”36 “That bringest good tidings” means “he that brings good news,” or “herald;”37 the bearer of good news concerning Zion is directed to get up into a high mountain. The word “gospel” comes from the Old English, meaning “the good message.”38 Similarly, in the second phrase of this verse, he who would bring the good tidings of the gospel to Jerusalem is instructed to lift his voice with strength and without fear.
Ecclesiastical leaders whose responsibility it is to spread the good news of the gospel must, without fear, show the people the way to behold their God. This mandate applies in particular to the prophets of the latter days, whose mission it is to prepare the people of both Zion and Jerusalem to meet the returning Messiah. “Zion” as used in this verse means a place of latter-day spiritual gathering as well as being a synonym for Jerusalem, in particular the latter-day Jerusalem in which righteousness would prevail.39 “High mountain” also refers to the temple, a place of preparation for those who would preach the gospel.40
The words of verse 9 comprise the text of Handel’s Messiah, Part 1 No. 9—Air for Alto, and Chorus, “O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion.”
Verse 10 declares: “Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.” This passage foretells the Lord’s Second Coming; His first coming was as an inauspicious babe in Bethlehem, which contrasts markedly with this description. His military power, as well as the acclaim due Him because of His mighty accomplishments, will be apparent to all.
The Lord, in Doctrine and Covenants, elaborates: “And the arm of the Lord shall be revealed; and the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people.”41
Verse 11 develops the metaphor of Messiah as the Good Shepherd: “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.” In their weakened state, ewes which have recently given birth need extra care.
During His mortal ministry, Jesus declared Himself to be the Good Shepherd:
I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.42
Here, in the context of His being the Good Shepherd, Jesus foretells His infinite sacrifice in that He would lay down His life.
King Benjamin exhorted his people:
Behold, I say unto you, that the good shepherd doth call you; yea, and in his own name he doth call you, which is the name of Christ; and if ye will not hearken unto the voice of the good shepherd, to the name by which ye are called, behold, ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd.43
The words of verse 11 comprise the text of Handel’s Messiah, Part 1 No. 20—Air For Alto, “He Shall Feed His Flock Like A Shepherd.” The metaphor of the Lord as the Good Shepherd is also presented in Psalm 23. See also the words to the hymns “The Lord is My Shepherd”44 and “The Lord My Pasture Will Prepare.”45
Delbert L. Stapley taught:
The testimony that Jesus is the Good Shepherd was a figure of speech familiar to those accustomed to the pastoral conditions of Palestine. Jesus knew His hearers were acquainted with the prophecy that a shepherd had been promised the children of Israel…. Isaiah prophesied that when God would come down, “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm.” There was no mistaking what Jesus meant. He was their Lord—the promised Messiah!
By likening false teachers and pastors to thieves and hirelings whose concern was for money rather than the flock, Jesus repudiated all pretenders. A stronger indictment could not be imagined!46
Beginning in verse 12, the Lord is described as the Creator: “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?”47,48 The Great Isaiah Scroll reads: “Who hath measured the waters of the sea in the hollow of his hand….?”49 The power of the Creator is awesome and incomprehensible to man. Note that “who hath” is matched with a series of five parallel statements in this verse, as well as others in the following verses. Isaiah’s purpose in using parallel structures is for emphasis. “Measured,” “meted out…with the span,” “comprehended…in a measure,” “weighed…in scales, and [weighed]…in a balance” all describe activities associated with building—the earthly analog of the Godly work of creation. The “span” is the distance between the tip of the thumb and the little finger when the hand is fully extended.
Verse 13 continues Isaiah’s rhetorical questions: “Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him?” The Lord’s infinite knowledge, demonstrated in His creative works, is incomprehensible to man. Who hath taught the Lord? Certainly not even the best and the wisest among men. Note that the structure of this verse is the same as the previous verse, consisting of a lead phrase “who hath,” followed by two parallel statements that are a continuation of those of verse 12.
The Apostle Paul paraphrased and expanded upon verse 13:
O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?50
Modern revelation invokes similar words: “Great is his wisdom, marvelous are his ways, and the extent of his doings none can find out.”51
Verse 14 continues: “With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?” 52 Here Isaiah establishes that no mortal man taught the Lord these things; rather, He was taught by His Heavenly Father. Note, again, the parallel structure: “With whom” is the lead phrase, followed by five equivalent parallel phrases. “Path of judgment” and “way of understanding” symbolize the Plan of Salvation.53 “Judgment,” as used here, means “sound reasoning.”54
Verse 15 describes the magnitude of the Lord’s accomplishments: “Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.” The Lord’s omnipotence is again attested, emphasized by the parallel structure.
Verse 16 describes man’s puniness in honoring the Lord for His power and accomplishments: “And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering.” Because of His greatness, not even all of the animals in Lebanon, nor all the firewood in the great forests therein, are adequate for a burnt offering large enough to bestow Him due honor.
Verse 17 summarizes: “All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.” In light of the Lord’s omnipotence and accomplishments the nations that populate the earth—together with all their human achievements—are insignificant. If the Lord has power to create the earth and form man upon it, surely He has power to make good on all His promises.
Verse 18 introduces Isaiah’s challenge to idolaters: “To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?” These rhetorical questions affirm that there is no entity comparable to God.
Verses 19 and 20 describe the idolater’s futile efforts in making something worthy of worship. Verse 19 begins: “The workman melteth a graven image, and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold, and casteth silver chains.”
Verse 20 states: “He that is so impoverished that he hath no oblation chooseth a tree that will not rot; he seeketh unto him a cunning workman to prepare a graven image, that shall not be moved.” Even the poor who cannot afford silver and gold try to provide durable wood for making a graven image.
Verse 21 begins Isaiah’s exasperated denunciation: “Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth?” These four negative rhetorical questions are structurally parallel, all having the same meaning. Their use demonstrates Isaiah’s contention that it is abundantly clear that the Lord—not vain idols—is our Creator and controls men’s destinies. Idolatry is gross ignorance.
Verse 22 recalls the omnipotence of the Lord, summarizing Isaiah’s statements in verses 12 through 15: “It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in.” The Lord, sitting upon the earth’s orbit, can view all the inhabitants of the earth at once.
Verse 23 confirms the power of the Lord over the earth’s political leaders: “That bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity.” The powerful, when compared to the Lord’s omnipotence, are as nothing.
Verse 24 elaborates: “Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown: yea, their stock shall not take root in the earth: and he shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble.” Without the Lord’s nurturing care, political rulers are like plants not cared for nor nourished.
In verse 25, the Lord poses another rhetorical question: “To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One.”
In verse 26, He provides the answer: “Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.” 55 The psalmist asserts: “He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names.”56 All the stars in the sky bear witness of the creative power of the Lord. He numbers the stars in the heavens and knows them by name. Each, without fail, obeys the laws given it by the Lord.57
Verse 27 delivers Isaiah’s challenge to Israel: “Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God?” 58 Isaiah challenges Jacob’s statement that the Lord is not aware of his difficult path and that God disregards his best efforts. “My way” [Jacob’s] means life’s challenges and tribulations; “the way” means the Plan of Salvation.59 “Judgment” as used here means “sound reasoning.”60
Verse 28 provides Isaiah’s answer: “Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.” “The ends of the earth” here means the whole of the earth.61 It is abundantly clear—declares Isaiah—that the Lord, the Creator of all,62 is continually aware, His vigilance is unending, and there is no limit to His knowledge and understanding.
Verses 21 through 28 contain a chiasm:
A: (21) Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth?
B: (22) It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:
C: (23) That bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity.
C: (24) Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown: yea, their stock shall not take root in the earth: and he shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble. (25) To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One.
B: (26) Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth. (27) Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God?
A: (28) Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.
In this chiasm Isaiah declares that the Lord is the Great Creator; dumb idols and earthly rulers bear no comparison. “Have ye not known?” matches “hast thou not known?” First, Isaiah chastises idolaters as a group; then he berates them individually for their gross ignorance. “It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth” is equivalent to “behold who hath created these things,” attesting that the Lord is the Creator. “Princes,” together with “they shall not be planted” attest that worldly leaders are temporary whereas the Lord’s reign and power endure forever.
In verses 29 through 31, Isaiah describes the willingness of the Lord to give strength to those who obey Him. Verse 29 begins: “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.”63 The Lord strengthens the faithful.
Jeffery R. Holland testified:
I have personally known in my own life the realization of the promise “that the everlasting God…the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is [he] weary.” I am a witness that “he giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.”64
Verse 30 describes the plight of the wicked: “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall.”
Verse 31 describes the goodness of the Lord to the obedient: “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” “Wait upon the LORD” comes from the Hebrew meaning “hope for,” or “anticipate” the Lord.65 Just as eagles grow new feathers to renew their power of flight, the Lord will strengthen and renew the righteous who serve Him.
Regarding this passage, Robert D. Hales has said:
…When pain, tests, and trials come in life, draw near to the Savior. “Wait upon the Lord…look for him.”66 “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Healing comes in the Lord’s time and the Lord’s way; be patient.67
Adherence to the Lord’s law of health—referred to in Doctrine and Covenants as “the Word of Wisdom”68—is one demonstration of obedience by the faithful, who are promised these same blessings:
And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;
And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;
And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.
And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them.69
The parallel phrases “run and not be weary” and “walk and not faint” are synonymous. “Run” being paired with “not be weary” and “walk” being matched with “not faint” bear no special significance even though they appear in the Word of Wisdom matched as presented in this verse.
Compare a similar structure earlier, in Chapter 8, which reads: “Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.”70 In two other instances, these elements occur in reverse order. In one place in Doctrine and Covenants they are rendered “bind up the law and seal up the testimony,”71 whereas in another place they are rendered “seal up the law, and bind up the testimony.”72 Because these parallel phrases are essentially synonymous, in neither instance is the meaning changed.
Verses 29 through 31 contain a chiasm:
A: (29) He giveth power to the faint;
B: and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.
C: (30) Even the youths
D: shall faint
D: and be weary,
C: and the young men shall utterly fall:
B: (31) But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles;
A: they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
The Lord strengthens the obedient and humble. “He giveth power to the faint” is equivalent to “they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Adherence to the Lord’s law of health is one way to be strengthened by the Lord.
1. Chapters 2 through 39 depict Israel in her homeland in a state of wickedness; chapters 40 through 54 describe Israel in exile in the world at large, interacting with people and events; and chapters 55 through 66 describe her glorious return to her homeland following repentance and cleansing.
2. F. Brown, S. Driver, and C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon: Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 01961-3473, 1996, Strong’s No. 5162, p. 636.
3. Verses 1 and 2 contain a chiasm: Comfort ye/my people/your God/comfortably.
4. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 6635, p. 838-839.
5. Exodus 22:9.
6. Doctrine and Covenants 82:3.
7. Luke 12:48.
8. Verses 2 and 3 contain a chiasm: The LORD’s hand/sins/voice of him/crieth/wilderness/the LORD.
9. See Isaiah 11:16; 19:23; 35:8; 40:14; 49:11 and pertinent commentary.
10. Matthew 3:3-6. See also Mark 1:3-4; Luke 3:4; and John 1:23.
11. 1 Nephi 10:7-10.
12. Doctrine and Covenants 33:10.
13. Doctrine and Covenants 65:1, 3.
14. Isaiah 35:8.
15. Matthew 7:14.
16. See Exodus 14:21‑31.
17. See Isaiah 35:8; see also Isaiah 3:12; 8:11; 26:7-8; 28:7 and pertinent commentary.
18. Doctrine and Covenants 136.
19. Doctrine and Covenants 84:28.
20. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7406, p. 940.
21. Doctrine and Covenants 49:23.
22. See Bible Dictionary—James, Epistle of.
23. James 1:9‑10.
24. Isaiah 40:6.
25. See James 1:5‑6.
26. See Joseph Smith—History 1:11 and verses following.
27. Doctrine and Covenants 104:16.
28. Doctrine and Covenants 101:22‑23.
29. Luke 3:4-6.
30. “The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles,” Ensign, Apr. 2000, p. 2‑3.
31. James 1:10.
32. Verses 6 and 7 contain a chiasm that overlaps that of verses 5 through 7: All flesh is grass/goodliness thereof/grass withereth/flower fadeth/spirit of the LORD/the people is grass.
33. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7307, p. 924.
34. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7307, p. 924.
35. 1 Peter 1:24-25.
36. Verses 8 and 9 contain a chiasm: Our God/O Zion/lift up thy voice/lift it up/cities of Judah/your God.
37. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 1319, p. 142.
38. Ernest Klein, A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the English Language: Elsevier Publishing Company, New York, 1971, p. 318.
39. See Isaiah 3:16; 33:5, 14, 20; 34:8; 37:32; 41:27; 51:3.
40. Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry and Tina M. Peterson, Understanding Isaiah: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1998, p. 343.
41. Doctrine and Covenants 1:14.
42. John 10:11‑15.
43. Alma 5:38.
44. Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985, Hymn no.108, “The Lord is My Shepherd.”
45. Hymns, no.109, “The Lord My Pasture Will Prepare.”
46. Delbert L. Stapley, “What Constitutes the True Church,” Ensign, May 1977, p. 21.
47. Verses 10 and 11 contain a chiasm: Lord GOD/strong hand/his arm/reward/work/his arm/gently lead.
48. Verse 12 contains a chiasm recognized in the original Hebrew: Measured/hand/waters/ heaven/span/comprehended …measure. Parry, 2001, p. 261.
49. Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, p. 159.
50. Romans 11:33-34; see also 1 Corinthians 2:15.
51. Doctrine and Covenants 76:2.
52. Verse 14 contains a chiasm: Instructed him/taught him/taught him/shewed to him…understanding. Parry, 2001, p. 261.
53. See Isaiah 11:16; 19:23; 35:8; 49:11 and pertinent commentary.
54. See Isaiah 1:17; 28:7; 40:27; 42:3; 59:8.
55. Verse 26 contains two chiasms ; the first is recognized in the original Hebrew: Lift up on high/eyes/behold/who. Them all/greatness of his might/he is strong in power/not one. Parry, 2001, p. 261.
56. Psalm 147:4.
57. Doctrine and Covenants 88:25.
58. Verse 27 contains a chiasm recognized in the original Hebrew: Is hid/my way/from the LORD/from my God/my judgment/is passed over. Parry, 2001, p. 261.
59. See Isaiah 26:7-8; 28:7; 42:16 and pertinent commentary.
60. See Isaiah 1:17; 28:7; 40:14; 42:3; 59:8.
61. See Isaiah 5:26; 26:15; 41:5, 9.
62. See Isaiah 41:20; 42:5; 44:24; 45:12; Moses 1:33; 4:2.
63. Verse 29 contains a chiasm: He giveth power/faint/them/no might/strength.
64. Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Peaceable Things of the Kingdom,” Ensign, Nov. 1996, p. 82.
65. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 6960, p. 875.
66. Isaiah 8:17; 2 Nephi 18:17.
67. Robert D. Hales, “Healing Soul and Body,” Ensign, Nov.1998, p. 17.
68. See Doctrine and Covenants 89:1.
69. Doctrine and Covenants 89:18‑21.
70. Isaiah 8:16.
71. Doctrine and Covenants 88:84.
72. Doctrine and Covenants 109:46.