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Isaiah 40:12 [study!]

American Standard Version (ASV 1901) [2]
— 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?
King James Version (KJV 1769)
— 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?
New American Standard Bible (NASB ©1995)
— Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, And marked off the heavens by the span, And calculated the dust of the earth by the measure, And weighed the mountains in a balance And the hills in a pair of scales?
Webster's Revision of the KJB (WEB 1833)
— Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and measured 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?
Darby's Translation (DBY 1890)
— Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out the heavens with [his] span, and grasped the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in a balance, and the hills in scales?
Rotherham's Emphasized Bible (EBR 1902)
— Who, hath measured, with the hollow of his hand, the waters, Or, the heavens with a span, hath meted out, Or hath comprehended, in a measure, the dust of the earth, Or weighed, in scales, the mountains, Or, the hills, in a balance?
Young's Literal Translation (YLT 1898)
— Who hath measured in the hollow of his hand the waters? And the heavens by a span hath meted out, And comprehended in a measure the dust of the earth, And hath weighed in scales the mountains, And the hills in a balance?
Douay-Rheims Challoner Revision (DR 1750)
— Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and weighed the heavens with his palm? who hath poised with three fingers the bulk of the earth, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?
Original King James Bible (AV 1611) [2]
— Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand? and meted out heauen with the spanne, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountaines in scales, and the hilles in a balance?
Brenton Greek Septuagint (LXX, Restored Names)
— Who has measured the water in his hand, and the heaven with a span, and all the earth in a handful? Who has weighed the mountains in scales, and the forests in a balance?
Full Hebrew Names / Holy Name KJV (2008) [2] [3]
— 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?

Strong's Numbers & Hebrew NamesHebrew Old TestamentColor-Code/Key Word Studies
Who x4310
(4310) Complement
מִי
miy
{me}
An interrogitive pronoun of persons, as H4100 is of things, who? (occasionally, by a peculiar idiom, of things); also (indefinitely) whoever; often used in oblique construction with prefix or suffix.
hath measured 4058
{4058} Prime
מָדַד
madad
{maw-dad'}
A primitive root; properly to stretch; by implication to measure (as if by stretching a line); figuratively to be extended.
z8804
<8804> Grammar
Stem - Qal (See H8851)
Mood - Perfect (See H8816)
Count - 12562
the waters 4325
{4325} Prime
מַיִם
mayim
{mah'-yim}
Dual of a primitive noun (but used in a singular sense); water; figuratively juice; by euphemism urine, semen.
in the hollow of his hand, 8168
{8168} Prime
שַׁעַל
sho`al
{sho'-al}
From an unused root meaning to hollow out; the palm; by extension a handful.
and meted out 8505
{8505} Prime
תָּכַן
takan
{taw-kan'}
A primitive root; to balance, that is, measure out (by weight or dimension); figuratively to arrange, equalize, through the idea of levelling (mentally estimate, test).
z8765
<8765> Grammar
Stem - Piel (See H8840)
Mood - Perfect (See H8816)
Count - 2121
heaven 8064
{8064} Prime
שָׁמַיִם
shamayim
{shaw-mah'-yim}
The second form being dual of an unused singular; from an unused root meaning to be lofty; the sky (as aloft; the dual perhaps alluding to the visible arch in which the clouds move, as well as to the higher ether where the celestial bodies revolve).
with the span, 2239
{2239} Prime
זֶרֶת
zereth
{zeh'-reth}
From H2219; the spread of the fingers, that is, a span.
and comprehended 3557
{3557} Prime
כּול
kuwl
{kool}
A primitive root; properly to keep in; hence to measure; figuratively to maintain (in various senses).
z8804
<8804> Grammar
Stem - Qal (See H8851)
Mood - Perfect (See H8816)
Count - 12562
the dust 6083
{6083} Prime
עָפָר
`aphar
{aw-fawr'}
From H6080; dust (as powdered or gray); hence clay, earth, mud.
of the earth 776
{0776} Prime
אֶרֶץ
'erets
{eh'-rets}
From an unused root probably meaning to be firm; the earth (at large, or partitively a land).
in a measure, 7991
{7991} Prime
שָׁלִישׁ
shaliysh
{shaw-leesh'}
(The second form used in 1 Chronicles 11:11, 12, 18; the third form used in 2 Samuel 23:13); from H7969; a triple, that is, (as a musical instrument) a triangle (or perhaps rather three stringed lute); also (as an indefinitely great quantity) a three fold measure (perhaps a treble ephah); also (as an officer) a general of the third rank (upward, that is, the highest).
and weighed 8254
{8254} Prime
שָׁקַל
shaqal
{shaw-kal'}
A primitive root; to suspend or poise (especially in trade).
z8804
<8804> Grammar
Stem - Qal (See H8851)
Mood - Perfect (See H8816)
Count - 12562
the mountains 2022
{2022} Prime
הַר
har
{har}
A shortened form of H2042; a mountain or range of hills (sometimes used figuratively).
in scales, 6425
{6425} Prime
פֶּלֶס
pelec
{peh'-les}
From H6424; a balance.
and the hills 1389
{1389} Prime
גִּבְעָה
gib`ah
{ghib-aw'}
Feminine from the same as H1387; a hillock.
in a balance? 3976
{3976} Prime
מֹאזֵן
mo'zen
{mo-zane'}
From H0239; (only in the dual) a pair of scales.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary

Isaiah 40:12

_ _ Lest the Jews should suppose that He who was just before described as a “shepherd” is a mere man, He is now described as GOD.

_ _ Who — Who else but GOD could do so? Therefore, though the redemption and restoration of His people, foretold here, was a work beyond man’s power, they should not doubt its fulfillment since all things are possible to Him who can accurately regulate the proportion of the waters as if He had measured them with His hand (compare Isaiah 40:15). But Maurer translates: “Who can measure,” etc., that is, How immeasurable are the works of God? The former is a better explanation (Job 28:25; Proverbs 30:4).

_ _ span — the space from the end of the thumb to the end of the middle finger extended; God measures the vast heavens as one would measure a small object with his span.

_ _ dust of the earth — All the earth is to Him but as a few grains of dust contained in a small measure (literally, “the third part of a larger measure”).

_ _ hills in a balance — adjusted in their right proportions and places, as exactly as if He had weighed them out.

Matthew Henry's Commentary

Isaiah 40:12-17

_ _ The scope of these verses is to show what a great and glorious being the Lord Jehovah is, who is Israel's God and Saviour. It comes in here, 1. To encourage his people that were captives in Babylon to hope in him, and to depend upon him for deliverance, though they were ever so weak and their oppressors ever so strong. 2. To engage them to cleave to him, and not to turn aside after other gods; for there are none to be compared with him. 3. To possess all those who receive the glad tidings of redemption by Christ with a holy awe and reverence of God. Though it was said (Isaiah 40:9), Behold your God, and (Isaiah 40:11) He shall feed his flock like a shepherd, yet these condescensions of his grace must not be thought of with any diminution to the transcendencies of his glory. Let us see how great our God is, and fear before him; for,

_ _ I. His power is unlimited, and what no creature can compare with, much less contend with, Isaiah 40:12. 1. He has a vast reach. View the celestial globe, and you are astonished at the extent of it; but the great God metes the heavens with a span; to him they are but a hand-breadth, so large-handed is he. View the terraqueous globe, and he has the command of that too. All the waters in the world he can measure in the hollow of his hand, where we can hold but a little water; and the dry land he easily manages, for he comprehends the dust of the earth in a measure, or with his three fingers; it is no more to him than a pugil, or that which we take up between our thumb and two fingers. 2. He has a vast strength, and can as easily move mountains and hills as the tradesman heaves his goods into the scales and out of them again; he poises them with his hand as exactly as if he weighed them in a pair of balances. This may refer to the work of creation, when the heavens were stretched out as exactly as that which is spanned, and the earth and waters were put together in just proportions, as if they had been measured, and the mountains made of such a weight as to serve for ballast to the globe, and no more. Or it may refer to the work of providence (which is a continued creation) and the consistency of all the creatures with each other.

_ _ II. His wisdom is unsearchable, and what no creature can give either information or direction to, Isaiah 40:13, Isaiah 40:14. As none can do what God has done and does, so none can assist him in the doing of it or suggest any thing to him which he thought not of. When the Lord by his Spirit made the world (Job 26:13) there was none that directed his Spirit, or gave him any advice, either what to do or how to do it. Nor does he need any counsellor to direct him in the government of the world, nor is there any with whom he consults, as the wisest kings do with those that know law and judgment, Esther 1:13. God needs not to be told what is done, for he knows it perfectly; nor needs he be advised concerning what is to be done, for he knows both the right end and the proper means. This is much insisted upon here, because the poor captives had no politicians among them to manage their concerns at court or to put them in a way of gaining their liberty. “No matter,” says the prophet, “you have a God to act for you, who needs not the assistance of statesmen.” In the great work of our redemption by Christ matters were concerted before the world was, when there was one to teach God in the path of judgment, 1 Corinthians 2:7.

_ _ III. The nations of the world are nothing in comparison of him, Isaiah 40:15, Isaiah 40:17. Take them all together, all the great and mighty nations of the earth, kings the most pompous, kingdoms the most populous, both the most wealthy; take the isles, the multitude of them, the isles of the Gentiles: Before him, when they stand in competition with him or in opposition to him, they are as a drop of the bucket compared with the vast ocean, or the small dust of the balance (which does not serve to turn it, and therefore is not regarded, it is so small) in comparison with all the dust of the earth. He takes them up, and throws them away from him, as a very little thing, not worth speaking of. They are all in his eye as nothing, as if they had no being at all; for they add nothing to his perfection and all-sufficiency. They are counted by him, and are to be counted by us in comparison of him, less than nothing, and vanity. When he pleases, he can as easily bring them all into nothing as at first he brought them out of nothing. When God has work to do he values not either the assistance or the resistance of any creature. They are all vanity; the word that is used for the chaos (Genesis 1:2), to which they will at last be reduced. Let this beget in us high thoughts of God and low thoughts of this world, and engage us to make God, and not man, both our fear and our hope. This magnifies God's love to the world, that, though it is of such small account and value with him, yet, for the redemption of it, he gave his only-begotten Son, John 3:16.

_ _ IV. The services of the church can make no addition to him nor do they bear any proportion to his infinite perfections (Isaiah 40:16): Lebanon is not sufficient to burn; not the wood of it, to be for the fuel of the altar, though it be so well stocked with cedars; not the beasts of it, to be for sacrifices, though it be so well stocked with cattle, Isaiah 40:16. Whatever we honour God with, it falls infinitely short of the merit of his perfection; for he is exalted far above all blessing and praise, all burnt-offerings and sacrifices.

John Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Isaiah 40:12

Who hath — Who can do this but God? And this discourse of God's infinite power and wisdom, is added to give them the greater assurance, that God was able to do the wonderful things, he had promised.

Geneva Bible Translation Notes

Isaiah 40:12

Who hath comprehended the waters in the hollow of his (r) hand, and measured 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?

(r) Declaring that as only God has all power, so does he use the same for the defence and maintenance of his Church.

Cross-Reference Topical ResearchStrong's Concordance
measured:

Isaiah 48:13 Mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spanned the heavens: [when] I call unto them, they stand up together.
Job 11:7-9 Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? ... The measure thereof [is] longer than the earth, and broader than the sea.
Job 38:4-11 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. ... And said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed?
Psalms 102:25-26 Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens [are] the work of thy hands. ... They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed:
Psalms 104:2-3 Who coverest [thyself] with light as [with] a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain: ... Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind:
Proverbs 8:26-28 While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. ... When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep:
Proverbs 30:4 Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? who hath gathered the wind in his fists? who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established all the ends of the earth? what [is] his name, and what [is] his son's name, if thou canst tell?
Hebrews 1:10-12 And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: ... And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.
Revelation 20:11 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.

measure:
Heb. tierce

weighed:

Job 28:25 To make the weight for the winds; and he weigheth the waters by measure.
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Chain-Reference Bible Search

Jb 11:7; 28:25; 38:4. Ps 102:25; 104:2. Pv 8:26; 30:4. Is 48:13. He 1:10. Rv 20:11.

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