I am a little behind here. This is a “psalm” study we did a couple of weeks ago but I never got around to posting on it. I used it as a follow-up to our discussion of Hebrew poetry in general. Of course, Isaiah 40 is not a psalm but it is a piece of biblical poetry and is very nice as an introduction to biblical poetry.
Here is the text:
1 “Have you not known?
2 Have you not heard?
3 The Lord is the everlasting God,
4 the Creator of the ends of the earth.
5 He does not faint or grow weary;
6 his understanding is unsearchable.
7 He gives power to the faint,
8 and to him who has no might he increases strength.
9 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
10 and young men shall fall exhausted;
11 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
12 they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
13 they shall run and not be weary;
14 they shall walk and not faint.”
We looked at two things in this passage: parallelism and certain repeated words. The parallelism is easy to see in this selection because everything comes in twos. Lines 1 and 2 are parallel, and lines 3 and 4, and so on down to lines 13 and 14 (I have divided up the lines here in such a way that we can see the parallel structure; they are not verse divisions).
We can see here that there are different parallel structures. The first pair, lines 1 and 2, are almost identical. And it is easy for us to see how “known” and “heard” go together in this context.
Lines 3 and 4 might not be so obvious. The subject and verb “The LORD is” are not repeated in the second line. Instead, the predicate nominative is made longer by the addition of a prepositional phrase. Rather than elucidate each pair for you, I invite you to go through the psalm (print it out) and draw lines between the elements that go together. Sometimes you will find yourself making straight lines from a word to the one below it. Sometimes you will find you have made an X (this is called a chiasm after the Greek letter chi).
Line 5 introduces to us a word pair “faint and weary.” These things go together. A similar pair found frequently in the psalms is “the poor and needy.” Though it seems redundant, they two synonyms form a frequently found together pair. Think of “down and out” in English.
Before you read what I have to say, go back to your print out of this selection and color all the “faint”s one color and all the “weary”s another (crayons or colored pencils are a big help in psalm study). And then ask yourself, who in each instance is or is not faint and weary? Does the way this word pair is used change through the passage?
What we noticed in our study is that “faint and weary” occurs together in line 5. In line 7 we have just “faint” and the parallel element in line 8 is “him who has no might.” Line 9 has both elements again and then the two are used in parallel to each other in lines 13 and 14.
When “faint and weary” first appears, it is about God and He is NOT faint and weary. Rather he gives power to the faint (line 7). Young men who would be expected to be the least faint and weary are nonetheless in line 9. But in lines 13 and 14 we find that it is those who wait on the LORD who will not be faint and weary.
There is a movement here from God (not faint and weary) down to people (faint and weary even though young) back up to His people whom God raises up and makes like Himself, not faint and weary any longer.
Any questions? Comments? I’d particularly love to hear about other passages you run across that you think would do well with this kind of analysis.