*Minor differences ignored. Grouped by changes, with first version listed as example.
Comfort ye. The Prophet introduces a new subject; for, leaving the people on whom no favorable impression was made either by threatenings or by admonitions, on account of their desperate wickedness, he turns to posterity, in order to declare that the people who shall be humbled under the cross will experience no want of consolation even amidst the severest distresses. And it is probable that he wrote this prophecy when the time of the captivity was at hand, that he might not at his departure from life leave the Church of God overwhehned by very grievous calamities, without the hope of restoration. Though he formerly mingled his predictions with threatenings and terrors for this purpose, yet he appears to have contemplated chiefly the benefit of those who lived at that time. What will afterwards follow will relate to the future Church, the revival of which was effected long after his death; for he will next lay down a perpetual doctrine, which must not be limited to a single period, and especially when he treats of the commencement and progress of the reign of Christ. And this prophecy must be of so much the greater importance to us, because it addresses us in direct terms; for, although it may be a spiritual application of what goes before, so as to be doctrine that is common both to the Jews and to us, yet, as he leaves the Jews of that age, and addresses posterity down to the end of the world, it appears to belong more especially to us. By this exhortation, therefore, the Lord intended to stir up the hearts of the godly, that they might not faint, amidst heavy calamities. First, he addresses the Jews, who were soon after to be carried into that hard captivity in which they should have neither sacrifices nor prophets, and would have been destitute of all consolation, had not the Lord relieved their miseries by these predictions. Next, he addresses all the godly that should live afterwards, or that shall yet live, to encourage their heart, even when they shall appear to be reduced very low and to be utterly ruined. That this discourse might have greater weight, and might mere powerfully affect their minds, he represents God as raising up new prophets, whom he enjoins to soothe the sorrows of the people by friendly consolation. The general meaning is, that, when he shall have appeared to have forsaken for a time the wretched captives, the testimony of his grace will again burst forth from the darkness, and that, when gladdening prophecies shall have ceased, their proper time will come round. In order to exhibit more strongly the ground of joy, he makes use of the plural number, Comfort ye; by which he intimates that he will send not one or another, but a vast multitude of prophets; and this he actually accomplished, by which we see more clearly his infinite goodness and mercy. Will say. First, it ought to be observed that the verb is in the future tense; and those commentators who render it in the present or past tense both change the words and spoil the meaning. Indircetly he points out an intermediate period, during which the people would be heavily afflicted, as if God had been silent.  Though even at that time God did not cease to hold out the hope of salvation by some prophets, yet, having for a long period cast them off, when they were wretchedly distressed and almost ruined, the consolation was less abundant, till it was pointed out, as it were with the finger, that they were at liberty to return. On this account the word comfort must be viewed as relating to a present favor; and the repetition of the word not only confirms the certainty of the prediction, but applauds its power and success, as if he had said, that in this message there will be abundant, full, and unceasing cause of joy. Above all, we must hold by the future tense of this verb, because there is an implied contrast between that melancholy silence of which I have spoken, and the doctrine of consolation which afterwards followed. And with this prediction agrees the complaint of the Church, "We do not see our signs; there is no longer among us a prophet or any one that knows how long." (Psalm 74:9.) We see how she laments that she has been deprived of the best kind of comfort, because no promise is brought forward for soothing her distresses. It is as if the Prophet had said, "The Lord will not suffer you to be deprived of prophets, to comfort you amidst your severest distresses. At that time he will raise up men by whom he will send to you the message that had been long desired, and at that time also he will show that he takes care of you." I consider the future tense, will say, as relating not only to the captivity in Babylon, but to the whole period of deliverance, which includes the reign of Christ.  To the verb will say, we must supply "to the prophets," whom he will appoint for that purpose; for in vain would they have spoken, if the Lord had not told them, and even put into their mouth what they should make known to others. Thus there is a mutual relation between God and the prophets," whom he will appoint for that purpose; for in vain would they have spoken, if the Lord had not told them and even put into their mouth what they should make known to others. Thus there is a mutual relation between God and the prophets. In a word, the Lord promises that the hope of salvation will be left, although the ingratitude of men deserves that this voice shall be perpetually silenced and altogether extinguished. These words, I have said, ought not to be limited to the captivity in Babylon; for they have a very extensive meaning, and include the doctrine of the gospel, in which chiefly lies the power of "comforting." To the gospel it belongs to comfort those who are distressed and cast down, to quicken those who are slain and actually dead, to cheer the mourners, and, in short, to bring all joy and gladness; and this is also the reason why it is called "the Gospel," that is, good news,  Nor did it begin at the time when Christ appeared in the world, but long before, since the time when God's favor was clearly revealed, and Daniel might be said to have first raised his banner, that believers might hold themselves in readiness for returning. (Daniel 9:2.) Afterwards, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Nehemiah, Ezra, and others, down to the coming of Christ, exhorted believers to cherish better and better hopes. Malachi, the last of them that wrote, knowing that there would be few prophets, sends the people to the law of Moses, to learn from it the will of God and its threatenings and promises. (Malachi 4:4.) Your God. From this passage we learn what we ought chiefly to seek in the prophets, namely, to encourage the hopes of godly persons by exhibiting the sweetness of divine grace, that they may not faint under the weight of afflictions, but may boldly persevere in calling on God. But since it was difficult to be believed, he reminds them of the covenant; as if he had said that it was impossible for God ever to forget what he formerly promised to Abraham. (Genesis 17:7.) Although, therefore, the Jews by their sins had fallen from grace, yet he affirms that he is their God, and that they are his peculiar people, both of which depended on election; but, as even in that nation there were many reprobates, the statement implies that to believers only is this discourse strictly directed; because he silently permits unbelievers, through constant languishment, to be utterly wasted and destroyed. But to believers there is held out an invaluable comfort, that, although for a time they are oppressed by grief and mourning, yet because they hope in God, who is the Father of consolation, they shall know by experience that the promises of grace, like a hidden treasure, are laid up for them, to cheer their hearts at the proper time. This is also a very high commendation of the prophetic office, that it supports believers in adversity, that they may not faint or be discouraged; and, on the other hand, this passage shews that it is a very terrible display of God's vengeance when there are no faithful teachers, from whose mouth may be heard in the Church of God the consolation that is fitted to raise up those who are cast down, and to strengthen the feeble.
1 - "Comme si Dieu n'en cust rien veu." "As if God had not at all seen it."
2 - "Qui comprend en soy le regne de Christ jusqu' a la fin du monde." "Which includes the reign of Christ till the end of the world."
3 - Evangile, c'est a dire Bonne nouvelle.
Comfort ye, comfort ye my people - This is the exordium, or the general subject of this and the following chapters. The commencement is abrupt, as often happens in Isaiah and the other prophets. The scene where this vision is laid is in Babylon; the time near the close of the captivity. The topic, or main subject of the consolation, is stated in the following verse - that that captivity was about to end, and that brighter and happier days were to succeed their calamities and their exile. The exhortation to 'comfort' the people is to be understood as a command of God to those in Babylon whose office or duty it would be to address them - that is, to the ministers of religion, or to the prophets. The Targum of Jonathan thus renders it: 'Ye prophets, prophesy consolations concerning my people.' The Septuagint renders it, 'Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith God. O priests, speak to the heart of Jerusalem; comfort her.' The design of Isaiah is doubtless to furnish that which should be to them a source of consolation when amidst the deep distress of their long captivity; to furnish an assurance that the captivity was about to end, and that brighter and happier times were to ensue.
The exhortation or command is repeated, to give intensity or emphasis to it, in the usual manner in Hebrew, where emphasis is denoted by the repetition of a word. The word rendered 'comfort' (from נחם nâcham) means properly to draw the breath forcibly, to sigh, pant, groan; then to lament, or grieve Psalm 90:13; Jeremiah 15:6; then to comfort or console one's-self Genesis 38:12. then to take vengeance (compare the note at Isaiah 1:24). All the forms of the word, and all the significations, indicate deep emotion, and the obtaining of relief either by repenting, or by taking vengeance, or by administering the proper topics of consolation. Here the topic of consolation is, that their calamities were about to come to an end, in accordance with the unchanging promises of a faithful God Isaiah 40:8, and is thus in accordance with what is said in Hebrews 6:17-18.
My people - The people of God. He regarded those in Babylon as his people; and he designed also to adduce such topics of consolation as would be adapted to comfort all his people in all ages.
Saith your God - The God of those whom he addressed - the God of the prophets or ministers of religion whose office was to comfort the people. We may remark here, that it is an important part of the ministerial office to administer consolation to the people of God in affiction; to exhibit to them his promises; to urge the topics of religion which are adapted to sustain them; and especially to uphold and cheer them with the assurance that their trials will soon come to an end, and will all terminate in complete deliverance from sorrow and calamity in heaven.
Comfort ye, comfort ye - "The whole of this prophecy," says Kimchi, "belongs to the days of the Messiah."
Comfort (a) ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
(a) This is a consolation for the Church, assuring them that they will never be destitute of prophets by which he exhorts the true ministers of God that then were, and those also that would come after him, to comfort the poor afflicted and to assure them of their deliverance both of body and soul.
Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. The Babylonish captivity being predicted in the preceding chapter, for the comfort of God's people a deliverance is promised, expressed in such terms, as in the clearest and strongest manner to set forth the redemption and salvation by Jesus Christ, of which it was typical. Here begins the more evangelical and spiritual part of this prophecy, which reaches to and includes the whole Gospel dispensation, from the coming of John the Baptist to the second coming of Christ. It begins with comforts, and holds on and ends with them; which consolations, Kimchi observes, are what should be in the times of the Messiah; and the word "comfort" is repeated, he says, to confirm the thing. It is God that here speaks, who is the God of all comfort; the persons whom he would have comforted are his "people", whom he has chosen, with whom be has made a covenant in Christ, whom he has given to him, and he has redeemed by his blood, and whom he effectually calls by his grace; these are sometimes disconsolate, by reason of the corruptions of their nature, the temptations of Satan, the hidings of God's face, and the various afflictions they meet with; and it is the will of God they should be comforted, as appears by sending his Son to be the comforter of them, by giving his Spirit as another comforter, by appointing ordinances as breasts of consolation to them, by the promises he has made to them, and the confirmation of them by an oath, for their strong consolation; and particularly by the word of the Gospel, and the ministers of it, who are Barnabases, sons of consolation, who are sent with a comfortable message, and are encouraged in their work from the consideration of God being their God, who will be with them, assist them, and make their ministrations successful; and to these are these words addressed; which are repeated, not to suggest any backwardness in Gospel ministers, who are ready to go on such an errand, however reluctant they may be to carry bad tidings; but rather to signify the people's refusal to be comforted, and therefore must be spoken to again and again; and also to show the vehement and hearty desire of the Lord to have them comforted. The Targum is,
"O ye prophets, prophesy comforts concerning my people.''
And the Septuagint and Arabic versions insert, "O ye priests", as if the words were directed to them. The preachers of the Gospel are meant, and are called unto; what the Lord would have said for the comfort of his people by them is expressed in the following verse.
All human life is a warfare; the Christian life is the most so; but the struggle will not last always. Troubles are removed in love, when sin is pardoned. In the great atonement of the death of Christ, the mercy of God is exercised to the glory of his justice. In Christ, and his sufferings, true penitents receive of the Lord's hand double for all their sins; for the satisfaction Christ made by his death was of infinite value. The prophet had some reference to the return of the Jews from Babylon. But this is a small event, compared with that pointed out by the Holy Ghost in the New Testament, when John the Baptist proclaimed the approach of Christ. When eastern princes marched through desert countries, ways were prepared for them, and hinderances removed. And may the Lord prepare our hearts by the teaching of his word and the convictions of his Spirit, that high and proud thoughts may be brought down, good desires planted, crooked and rugged tempers made straight and softened, and every hinderance removed, that we may be ready for his will on earth, and prepared for his heavenly kingdom. What are all that belongs to fallen man, or all that he does, but as the grass and the flower thereof! And what will all the titles and possessions of a dying sinner avail, when they leave him under condemnation! The word of the Lord can do that for us, which all flesh cannot. The glad tidings of the coming of Christ were to be sent forth to the ends of the earth. Satan is the strong man armed; but our Lord Jesus is stronger; and he shall proceed, and do all that he purposes. Christ is the good Shepherd; he shows tender care for young converts, weak believers, and those of a sorrowful spirit. By his word he requires no more service, and by his providence he inflicts no more trouble, than he will strengthen them for. May we know our Shepherd's voice, and follow him, proving ourselves his sheep.
SECOND PART OF THE PROPHECIES OF ISAIAH. (Isaiah. 40:1-31)
Comfort ye, comfort ye--twice repeated to give double assurance. Having announced the coming captivity of the Jews in Babylon, God now desires His servants, the prophets (Isaiah 52:7), to comfort them. The scene is laid in Babylon; the time, near the close of the captivity; the ground of comfort is the speedy ending of the captivity, the Lord Himself being their leader.
my people . . . your God--correlatives (Jeremiah 31:33; Hosea 1:9-10). It is God's covenant relation with His people, and His "word" of promise (Isaiah 40:8) to their forefathers, which is the ground of His interposition in their behalf, after having for a time chastised them (Isaiah 54:8).
In this first address the prophet vindicates his call to be the preacher of the comfort of the approaching deliverance, and explains this comfort on the ground that Jehovah, who called him to this comforting proclamation, was the incomparably exalted Creator and Ruler of the world. The first part of this address (Isaiah 40:1-11) may be regarded as the prologue to the whole twenty-seven. The theme of the prophetic promise, and the irresistible certainty of its fulfilment, are here declared. Turning of the people of the captivity, whom Jehovah has neither forgotten nor rejected, the prophet commences thus in Isaiah 40:1 : "Comfort ye, comfort ye may people, saith your God." This is the divine command to the prophets. Nachămū (piel, literally, to cause to breathe again) is repeated, because of its urgency (anadiplosis, as in Isaiah 41:27; Isaiah 43:11, Isaiah 43:25, etc.). The word יאמר, which does not mean "will say" here (Hofmann, Stier), but "saith" (lxx, Jerome) - as, for example, in 1-Samuel 24:14 - affirms that the command is a continuous one. The expression "saith your God" is peculiar to Isaiah, and common to both parts of the collection (Isaiah 1:11, Isaiah 1:18; Isaiah 33:10; Isaiah 40:1, Isaiah 40:25; Isaiah 41:21; Isaiah 66:9). The future in all these passages is expressive of that which is taking place or still continuing. And it is the same here. The divine command has not been issued once only, or merely to one prophet, but is being continually addressed to many prophets. "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people," is the continual charge of the God of the exiles. who has not ceased to be their God even in the midst of wrath, to His messengers and heralds the prophets.
Ye - Ye prophets and ministers.
*More commentary available at chapter level.