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Isaiah 40:5–8 (BHS/WHM 4.2)

5 וְנִגְלָ֖ה כְּב֣וֹד יְהוָ֑ה וְרָא֤וּ כָל־בָּשָׂר֙ יַחְדָּ֔ו כִּ֛י פִּ֥י יְהוָ֖ה דִּבֵּֽר׃ ס 6 ק֚וֹל אֹמֵ֣ר קְרָ֔א וְאָמַ֖ר מָ֣ה אֶקְרָ֑א כָּל־הַבָּשָׂ֣ר חָצִ֔יר וְכָל־חַסְדּ֖וֹ כְּצִ֥יץ הַשָּׂדֶֽה׃ 7 יָבֵ֤שׁ חָצִיר֙ נָ֣בֵֽל צִ֔יץ כִּ֛י ר֥וּחַ יְהוָ֖ה נָ֣שְׁבָה בּ֑וֹ אָכֵ֥ן חָצִ֖יר הָעָֽם׃ 8 יָבֵ֥שׁ חָצִ֖יר נָ֣בֵֽל צִ֑יץ וּדְבַר־אֱלֹהֵ֖ינוּ יָק֥וּם לְעוֹלָֽם׃ ס

 

Isaiah 40:5–8 (ESV)

5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” 6 A voice says, “Cry!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. 7 The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it; surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.

 

וְנִגְלָ֖ה כְּב֣וֹד יְהוָ֑ה

And it shall be revealed, the glory of YHWH

The niphal of ngl:

1. to expose oneself (Pax ΕΠΙΦΑΝΕΙΑ 1955:100ff.)2S 620; to be uncovered, to be exposed: foundation Ezk 1314; 2S 2216 / Ps 1816; long skirt Jr 1322, intimate parts of the body Ex 2026 Is 473 Ezk 1636.57 2329 (rd. וְנִגְלְתָה), פֶּשַׁע Ezk 2129, עָוֹן Hos 71, רָעָה Pr 2626, שַׁעֲרֵי מָוֶת Jb 3817; —2. to appear, show Is 499 (|| צֵֽאוּ); to let oneself be seen 1S 148.11 (with אֶל), to become visible Sir 4216 (God) to reveal oneself Gn 357 1S 227 321 Is 2214, his כָּבוֹד Is 405; —3. information is announced Is 231, revealed 1S 37 Is 531 561 Da 101; הַנִּגְלֹת what is disclosed :: הַנִּסְתָּרוֹת Dt 2928; —Is 3812 rd. וְנַגַל (: גלל nif.; Begrich Ps. Hisk. 27f). †

Ludwig Koehler, Walter Baumgartner, M. E. J. Richardson and Johann Jakob Stamm, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, electronic ed. (Leiden; New York: E.J. Brill, 1999), 191-92.

NIPHAL.—(1) to be uncovered, to be made naked; Isa. 47:3, “thy nakedness shall be uncovered;” Eze. 13:14; 16:36; 23:29. Also used of a vail taken away, Jer. 13:22.

(2) to be revealed.—(a) used of men and of God; to appear, as if by the removal of a vail, i.q. נִרְאָה; followed by אֶל Gen. 35:7; 1 Sa. 14:8, 11; compare Isa. 53:1, where there follows עַל.—(b) to be manifested, manifest, used of things which were before concealed, Isa. 49:9; Hos. 7:1.—(c) to be declared, followed by לְ and אֶל Isa. 23:1; 1 Sa. 3:7.

Wilhelm Gesenius and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2003), 170.

LXX has “καὶ ὀφθήσεται ἡ δόξα κυρίου”. The idea taught is remarkable: God’s glory will some how be made manifest, will be uncovered. The implication from this single may be, Manifested, revealed in a manner never before experienced. Two texts from John help to convey that concept further:

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. …. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. John 1:1 &18 (ESV)

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—1 John 1:1–2 (ESV)

These texts actually contain more parallel than merely the revelation of God: both of them also entail the Word of God being revealed – communication is also tied to the revelation in Isaiah: There is the call to speak (40:1), a voice calling (40:2), the glory will be surely revealed because God has spoken (4:5), another voice calling and receiving prophecy (4:6).

וְרָא֤וּ כָל־בָּשָׂר֙ יַחְדָּ֔ו

And they shall see, all flesh as one/together

Basar, flesh, which the next verses indicated will fade and wither before God.

 

כִּ֛י פִּ֥י יְהוָ֖ה דִּבֵּֽר׃

For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

What precisely is the relationship between the subordinate and the main clause? It may either give the reason why the main clause will take place – as if a natural correspondence, like a law of nature; or, the rationale for making the statement. It is difficult to decide between these two elements when the speaker is God, since the surety of God’s conduct underscores even natural law.

2. Marks a clause that provides a reason (co-ordinating conjunction)

(i) Provides the reason for a state of affairs by marking the actual reason with כִּי. The causal relation is due to natural laws. כִּי may be translated because. ….

 

(ii) Provides the reason for a preceding expression or expressions by marking with כִּי the motivation given by speakers to explain something they have said. The causal relation is thus not due to natural laws but is due to the speaker’s own reasoning. כִּי can usually also be translated for.

Christo Van der Merwe, Jackie Naudé, Jan Kroeze et al., A Biblical Hebrew Reference Grammar, electronic ed. (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999), 301-02.

 

ק֚וֹל אֹמֵ֣ר קְרָ֔א וְאָמַ֖ר

A voice calling, Call and  he said …

אֹמֵ֣ר

Qal participle: saying

קְרָ֔א

Imperative: Cry!

The accent marks a disjunction:

4 b. (֔) זָקֵף קָטוֹן Zâqēph qāṭôn. The names refer to their musical character. As a disjunctive, Little Zâqēph is by nature stronger than Great Zâqēph; but if they stand together, the one which comes first is always the stronger.

Friedrich Wilhelm Gesenius, Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar, ed. E. Kautzsch and Sir Arthur Ernest Cowley, 2d English ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1910), 60.

וְאָמַ֖ר

And/then he/it said

Delitzsch notes that it is not I said, but he said: “so that the person asking the question is not the prophet himself, but an ideal person” (143).

מָ֣ה אֶקְרָ֑א

What shall I cry?

The impf. is employed to express actions which are contingent or depending on something preceding. The shades of sense of impf. in this use of it are manifold, corresponding to Eng. will (of volition), shall (of command), may and can (of possibility or permission), am to, in the present; and to would, should, might, could, was to, in the past or indirect speech. Particularly (1) in interrogative sentences;

A. B. Davidson, Introductory Hebrew Grammar Hebrew Syntax, 3d ed. (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1902), 64.

Westerman following Luther would translate this, What shall I preach? (41).

כָּל־הַבָּשָׂ֣ר חָצִ֔יר

All the flesh [is] grass

“Men living in the flesh are universally impotent, perishing, limited; God, on the contrary (ch. xxxi.3), is the omnipotent, eternal, all-determining; and like Himself, so His word, which, regarded as the vehicle and utterance of His willing and thinking, is not something separate from Himself, and there is the same as He” (Franz Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary On the Prophecies of Isaiah, trans. James Martin B.A. Clark’s Foreign Theological Library (Edinburgh: Murray and Gibb, 1875), 2:143). Young writes, “[M]an is frail like the grass, and only the Word of the Lord endures forever” (32). And, “Men of flesh are weak and mortal; their life is brief and soon comes to an end” (33).

Delitzsch, Franz Biblical Commentary On the Prophecies of Isaiah. Translated by James Martin B.A. Vol. 2. Clark’s Foreign Theological Library. Edinburgh: Murray and Gibb, 1875.

וְכָל־חַסְדּ֖וֹ כְּצִ֥יץ הַשָּׂדֶֽה

And all its hesed like a flower of the field

The great problem here is the translation of hesed:

 

…1. joint obligation between relatives, friends, host and guest, master and servant; closeness, solidarity, loyalty: a) חֶסֶד and בְּרִית (שֹׁמֵר הַבְּ׳ וְהַח׳ Dt 79, with שָׁמַר 712); בּ׳ comes about by a ceremony ח׳ results from the closer relationship between two people, the obligations are largely the same; ח׳ וֶאֱמֶת Gn 2427.49 and אֱמוּנָה וְח׳ Ps 8925 lasting loyalty, faithfulness; עָשָׂה ח׳ to show loyalty Gn 2123 Jos 212 Ju 124 835 1S 156 208 2S 38 91.7 102 Ru 18 1C 192; b) ח׳ exists between a son and a dying father Gn 4729, a wife and a husband Gn 2013 (cf. Jr 22 || אַהֲבָה), relatives Ru 220, guests Gn 1919, friends 1S 208 2S 91, people who do each other a service Ju 124, king and people 2S 38 2C 2422; c) > esp.: אִישׁ ח׳ confidant Pr 1117, cj. אִישׁ חַסְדְּךָ your faithful servant Dt 338 (alt. favourite) אַנְשֵׁי ח׳ the godly Is 571; מַלְכֵי ח׳ loyal kings 1K 2031; אִישׁ חַסְדּוֹ each one’s faithfulness Pr 206; d) community > protection Ps 1442 (prp. חָסְנִי), > favour Ezr 29.17 (חֵן וָח׳), ח׳ לִפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ the favour of the king Ezr 728; תּוֹרַת ח׳ kind teaching Pr 3126; charm (of flowers) Is 406 (cf. MHb. חסודה lovely, cj. חֶמְדּוֹ); —2. ח׳ in God’s relationship with the people or an individual, faithfulness, goodness, graciousness: a) ח׳ י׳ Ps 335 10317, ח׳ אֱלֹהִים 2S 93 Ps 5210; ח׳ עֶלְיוֹן 218; לְעוֹלָם חַסדּוֹ Jr 3311 Ps 1361-26 1005 1061 1071 1181-4.29 Ezr 311; cj. Ps 44 (rd. חַסדּוֹ לִי) and 122 (rd. חֶסֶד), בְּחַסְדְּךָ in your faithfulness (to me) 14312; mercy חָפֵץ ח׳ :: אַף Mi 718; b) עָשָׂה ח׳ to show faithfulness with עִם Ru 18, with לְ Ex 206 and above (→ 1a); שָׁמַר ח׳ Dt 79 Da 94 and נָצַר ח׳ to keep faithfulness Ex 347 זָכַר ח׳ to remember Ps 983, עָזַב ח׳ מֵעִם to withdraw faithfulness Gn 2427; c) God is רַב ח׳ abounding in faithfulness Ex 346 Nu 1418 Jl 213 Jon 42 Ps 865.15 1038 Neh. 917; —3. pl. חֲסָדִים, חֲסָדַי etc. the individual actions resulting from solidarity: a) (of people) godly action, achievements: by Nehemiah Neh 1314, Hezekiah 2C 3232, Josiah 3526; b) (God’s) proofs of mercy Gn 3211 Is 637 Ps 892 Lam 322; חַסְדֵי דָוִיד mercies shown to David Is 553 2C 642; רַחֲמִים וַחֲסָדִים Ps 256; —Ps 523 rd. חָסִיד, Pr 2028b rd. בַּצֶּדֶק (?).

 

Ludwig Koehler, Walter Baumgartner, M. E. J. Richardson and Johann Jakob Stamm, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, electronic ed. (Leiden; New York: E.J. Brill, 1999), 336-37.

(1) in a good sense, zeal towards any one, love, kindness, specially—(a) of men amongst themselves, benignity, benevolence, as shown in mutual benefits; mercy, pity, when referring to those in misfortune, Gen. 21:23; 2 Sam. 10:2 (LXX. often ἔλεος); Job 6:14. The expression often occurs, עָשָׂה חֶסֶד עִם to act kindly towards, Gen. loc. cit.; 2 Sa. 3:8; 9:1, 7; also followed by אֵת Zec. 7:9; עַל 1 Sa. 20:8; more fully, חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת עִם, עָשָׂה Gen. 24:49; 47:29; Josh. 2:14; 2 Sa. 9:3, אֶעֱשֶׂה עִמּוֹחֶסֶד אֱלֹהִים “I will act kindly towards him like unto God.” נָטָה חֶסֶד לְ to turn, or incline, kindness upon any one, Gen. 39:21; more fully, Ezr 7:28, עָלַי הִטֶּה חֶסֶד לִפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ “(God) turned kindness upon me before the king,” and Dan. 1:9, וַיִּתֵּן הָאֱלֹהִים אֶת־דָנִיֵּאל לְחֶסֶד “and God caused that Daniel should obtain favour.”—(b) piety of men towards God. אַנְשֵׁי חֶסֶד=חֲסִידִים the pious saints, Isa. 57:1.—(c) the grace, favour, mercy of God towards men. Psalm 5:8; 36:6; 48:10, etc. It is often joined with אֱמֶת (see אֱמֶת No. 2) constant or abiding favour. The same expressions likewise occur as under letter a, as עָשָׂה חֶסֶד עִם Gen. 24:12, 14; followed by לְ Ex. 20:6; Deut. 5:10; עָשָׂה חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת עִם 2 Sa. 2:6; 15:20. Pl. חֲסָדִים mercies or benefits (of God), Ps. 89:2, 50; 107:43; Isa. 55:3, חַסְדֵי דָוִד הַנֶּאֱמָנִים “the sure mercies of David,” abiding mercies such as were bestowed on David [or rather, which were securely promised to David]. Figuratively, God himself is called חֶסֶד q. d. die Huld, Liebe. Ps. 144:2; Jon. 2:9.—Once, like its synonym חֵן, it seems to signify grace in the sense of beauty, Isaiah 40:6. LXX. δόξα, and so 1 Pet. 1:24.

(2) in a bad sense, zeal, ardour against any one, envy, hence reproach (see root No. 2). Prov. 14:34; Lev. 20:17. Some would also place here Job 6:14.

(3) [Hesed], pr.n. m. 1 Ki. 4:10.

Wilhelm Gesenius and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2003), 293-94.

There is little directly in the passage which would explain how to precisely translate the word: Does it refer to the hesed among those of the flesh? Or, the hesed of men toward God? That is, men are not fickle and in their profession and covenant?

חסדו, “its loyalty,” is a word that is often used to speak of “solidarity” in covenant relations (N. Glueck, Hesed in the Bible, trans. A. Gottschalk [Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College, 1967]). The claim is that humans are not capable of preserving loyalty for long (see Note 6.d.).

John D. W. Watts, vol. 25, Isaiah 34–66, Revised Edition, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc, 2005), 611.

An extensive disucssion of the word 

For centuries the word ḥesed was translated with words like mercy, kindness, love. The LXX usually uses eleos “mercy,” and the Latin misericordia. The Targum and Syriac use frequently a cognate of ṭob. The root is not found in Akkadian or Ugaritic. The lexicons up through BDB and GB (which said Liebe, Gunst, Gnade, love, goodness, grace) are similar. KB however is the “mutual liability of those … belonging together.”

In 1927 Nelson Glueck, shortly preceded by I. Elbogen, published a doctoral dissertation in German translated into English by A. Gottschalk, Hesed in the Bible with an introduction by G. A. LaRue which is a watershed in the discussion. His views have been widely accepted. In brief, Glueck built on the growing idea that Israel was bound to its deity by covenants like the Hittite and other treaties. He held that God is pictured as dealing basically in this way with Israel. The Ten Commandments, etc. were stipulations of the covenant, Israel’s victories were rewards of covenant keeping, her apostasy was covenant violation and God’s hesed was not basically mercy, but loyalty to his covenant obligations, a loyalty which the Israelites should also show. He was followed substantially by W. F. Lofthouse (1933), N. H. Snaith (1944), H. W. Robinson (1946), Ugo Masing (1954), and many others.

There were others, however, who disagreed. …

On the meaning of our word ḥesed it is convenient to start, as G. and Sak. have done, with the secular usage, i.e. between man and man. Glueck argues that ḥesed is practiced in an ethically binding relationship of relatives, hosts, allies, friends and rulers. It is fidelity to covenantal obligations real or implied. Sakenfeld goes over the same material and concludes that indeed a relationship is present (love almost necessitates a subject-object relation) but that the ḥesed is freely given. “Freedom of decision” is essential. The help is vital, someone is in a position to help, the helper does so in his own freedom and this “is the central feature in all the texts” (p. 45).

..

Also Laban’s willingness to send Rebekah to Isaac was not from any covenant obligation (though G. cites the appeal to providence in v. 50). It was a kindness to a long-lost relative. He could easily have said “no.” The beautiful story of Ruth is tarnished by considering Ruth’s action as motivated by contractual obligations. The Lord had no obligation to get the widows new husbands in Moab (1:8–9). Ruth went with Naomi from pure love. Boaz recognized her action as goodness in 2:11–12 and calls it ḥesed in 3:10. … Other examples must be omitted, but they are similar. All parties agree that in Est 2:9, 17 the word is used of favor, kindness, but some try to make this usage unusual being post-exilic.

When we come to the ḥesed of God, the problem is that of course God was in covenant relation with the patriarchs and with Israel. Therefore his ḥesed can be called covenant ḥesed without contradiction. But by the same token God’s righteousness, judgment, fidelity, etc. could be called covenant judgment, etc. The question is, do the texts ascribe his ḥesed to his covenants or to his everlasting love’? …

Sakenfeld nicely brings together the several passages dependent on Ex 34:6–7. They are: Num 14:18–19; Neh 9:17; Ps 86:15; 103:8; 145:8 (cf. 9 and 10); Joel 2:13; and Jon 4:2. Of these passages, only Ps 86:15 includes the word ʾemet after ḥesed. They all speak of the love of the Lord and some mention his forgiveness. None specifically ground the ḥesed in covenant.

The phrase ḥesed and ʾemet “truth” mentioned above is thought by some to argue for the concept of loyalty or fidelity in ḥesed. It occurs some twenty-five times with about seven more in less close connection

It should be mentioned that ḥesed is also paired about fifteen times with nouns of mercy like raḥûm, e.g. Ps 103:4; Zech 7:9 (and cf. Ex 34:6–7 above), ḥēn, e.g. Gen 19:19; Ps 109:12, tanḥûm, Ps 94:18–19, etc. These instances usually stand as paired nouns not really in an adjectival relation. The implication is that ḥesed is one of the words descriptive of the love of God.

So, it is obvious that God was in covenant relation with Israel, also that he expressed this relation in ḥesed, that God’s ḥesed was eternal (Note the refrain of Ps 136)—though the ḥesed of Ephraim and others was not (Hos 6:4). However, it is by no means clear that ḥesed necessarily involves a covenant or means fidelity to a covenant. Stoebe argues that it refers to an attitude as well as to actions. This attitude is parallel to love, raḥûm goodness, ṭôb, etc. It is a kind of love, including mercy, ḥannûn, when the object is in a pitiful state. It often takes verbs of action, “do,” “keep,” and so refers to acts of love as well as to the attribute. The word “lovingkindness” of the KJV is archaic, but not far from the fulness of meaning of the word.[1]


BDB Brown, Driver, Briggs, A Hebrew-English Lexicon of the Old Testament, 1905

GB W. Gesenius, F. Buhl, Hebräisches und aramäisches Handwörterbuch, 17 ed. 1915

KB L. Koehler and W. Baumgartner, Lexicon in Veteris Testamenti Libros, 2nd ed., Eng.-Ger., 1958

[1] R. Laird Harris, “698 חסד” In , in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr. and Bruce K. Waltke, electronic ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 305-07.

The LXX has doxa (which is quoted by the NT, 1 Pet. 1:24), φωνὴ λέγοντος Βόησον, καὶ εἶπα Τί βοήσω; Πᾶσα σὰρξ χόρτος, καὶ πᾶσα δόξα ἀνθρώπου ὡς ἄνθος χόρτου, Isaiah 40:6 (LXX). The MT has “his” (to correspond to flesh) while the LXX has “of human beings” [“man” – but not male as opposed to female]. Delitzsch, following the LXX, writes “Chasdo is the charm or gracefulness of outward appearance” (Delitzsch, 143).

Calvin comments:

All the grace of it. Some translate חסדו (chăsdō) “his glory;” others, “his kindness;” but I have preferred the word “grace,” by which I mean everything that procures honour and esteem to men. Yet a passive signification may also be admitted; as if the Prophet had said, that all that is excellent and worthy of applause among men is the absolute kindness of God. Thus David calls God “the God of his kindness,” (Ps. 59:10, 17,) because he acknowledges him to be the author of all blessings, and ascribes it to his grace that he has obtained them so largely and abundantly. It is indeed certain that חסד (chĕsĕd) here denotes all that is naturally most highly valued among men, and that the Prophet condemns it for vanity, because there is an implied contrast between the ordinary nature of mankind and the grace of regeneration.

John Calvin and William Pringle, Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), Is 40:6.

The translators take various approaches:

‎ESV

‎NASB95

‎NIV

‎NIV84

‎NET

‎HCSB

‎‎Is 40:6 A voice says, “Cry!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.

‎‎Is 40:6 A voice says, “Call out.” Then he answered, “What shall I call out?” All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.

‎‎Is 40:6 A voice says, “Cry out.” And I said, “What shall I cry?” “All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.

‎‎Is 40:6 A voice says, “Cry out.” And I said, “What shall I cry?” “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.

‎‎Is 40:6 A voice says, “Cry out!” Another asks, “What should I cry out?” The first voice responds: “All people are like grass, and all their promises are like the flowers in the field.

‎‎Is 40:6 A voice was saying, “Cry out!” Another said, “What should I cry out?” “All humanity is grass, and all its goodness is like the flower of the field.

 

יָבֵ֤שׁ חָצִיר֙ נָ֣בֵֽל צִ֔יץ

And it dries up the grass and it crumbles away a flower

Understanding the frailty of humanity:

Some commentators refer this to the Assyrians, as if the Prophet, by extenuating their power and wealth, and industry and exertions, or rather by treating these as they had no existence, freed the minds of the Jews from terror. They bring out the meaning in this manner, “If you are terrified at the strength of men, remember that they are flesh, which quickly gives way through its own weakness. But their error is soon afterwards refuted by the context, in which the Prophet expressly applies it to the Jews themselves. We ought carefully to observe that man, with his faculties, on account of which he is accustomed to value himself so highly, is wholly compared to a flower. All men are fully convinced of the frailty of human life, and on this subject heathen writers have argued at great length; but it is far more difficult to root out the confidence which men entertain through a false opinion of their wisdom; for, if they imagine that they have either knowledge or industry beyond others, they think that they have a right to glory in them. But he shews that in man there is nothing so excellent as not to fade quickly and perish.

 

John Calvin and William Pringle, Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), Is 40:6.

כִּ֛י ר֥וּחַ יְהוָ֖ה נָ֣שְׁבָה בּ֑וֹ

For the Spirit of YHWH blows [frightens] it.

The characteristic of grass and flowers that dominates the comparison is their inability to withstand the “spirit of YHWH” that “blows against it.” The image plays on the double meaning of  רוח as both “wind” and “spirit.” The description is a bitter reminder that everything that has happened to Israel has been attributed to YHWH. It implies that because one is unable to stand against God one also cannot or should not be asked to stand with God. Because the people are only grass, the task is useless or hopeless. העם, “the people,” in the singular is used in Isaiah to refer to Israel (40:1; 42:22; 43:8, 20, 21; 47:6; 49:13; 51:7, 16, 22; 52:4, 5, 6).

John D. W. Watts, vol. 25, Isaiah 34–66, Revised Edition, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc, 2005), 611.

The ki explains why the grass withers.

§39.6. בְּ

 

Approximately 60% of the cases where this preposition is used in the Hebrew Bible have a locative connotation while 15% have a temporal connotation. The examples below, however, attest to the fact that בְּ in BH has a more general meaning than ‘in’ or ‘within’. It is a preposition that is not very specialized semantically. (Cf. Jenni 1992 for further details.)

 

1. Indicates localization

 

The translation of the spacial equivalent of the preposition בְּ is more or less ‘in x’.

 

(i) Indicates spatial localization—the so-called beth locale

    a.      In or at a place

 

    d.      Indicates the route of a verb of movement: through

 

Christo Van der Merwe, Jackie Naudé, Jan Kroeze et al., A Biblical Hebrew Reference Grammar, electronic ed. (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999), 279-80.

 

אָכֵ֥ן חָצִ֖יר הָעָֽם

Surely  is the grass, the people.

Surely the people is grass. The Prophet added this, that all might know that he was not speaking of foreigners, but of that people which gloried in the name of God; for the Jews might have thought that they were more excellent, and held a higher rank than other men, and that on this account they ought to be exempted from the common lot. He therefore addresses them expressly and by name, that they may not claim anything for themselves above others; as if he had said, that they would act wisely if, through a conviction of their poverty, they should cast away all confidence in themselves. In a word, the Prophet, after having mentioned consolation, shews in what way men must be prepared to receive it; for they are not capable of it till they have formerly been reduced to nothing. Our hardness must therefore be softened, our haughtiness must be cast down and laid low, our boasting must be put to shame, and our hearts must be subdued and humbled, if we wish to receive with any advantage the consolations which the prophets bring to us by the command of God.

John Calvin and William Pringle, Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), Is 40:7.

 

יָבֵ֥שׁ חָצִ֖יר נָ֣בֵֽל צִ֑יץ

The grass withers, a flower crumbles

 

וּדְבַר־אֱלֹהֵ֖ינוּ יָק֥וּם לְעוֹלָֽם

And the Word of our God is established/stands to the age (forever).

Disjuntive waw:

      In narrative, ו+“non-verb” (disjunctive) clauses have one main function—to show that a particular situation or event is not consecutive to the preceding one. Instead, they may give background information necessary to understanding the events in a narrative, or describe parallel or contrasting situations or actions. Disjunctive clauses can be nominal or verbal. In narrative, they often have participial predicates or qatal. Qatal in these clauses commonly refers to events that preceded the main narrative (“flashbacks”), or to background conditions that underlie and help explain  the narrative.

 

Frederic Clarke Putnam, Hebrew Bible Insert: A Student’s Guide to the Syntax of Biblical Hebrew (Quakertown, PA: Stylus Publishing, 2002), 43-44.

The Word of the Lord:

12.3     A noun in the construct state never has the definite article.

»    If the last noun is definite, the noun in construct is also definite.

the horse of the king”

 

סוּס־הַמֶּלֶךְ

 

 

the soul of the prophet”

 

נֶפֶשׁ־הַנָּבִיא

 

Personal names are definite, so יוֹם־יְהוָה is translated “the day of the Lord.”

 

Mark David Futato, Beginning Biblical Hebrew (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2003), 68.