After the destruction of the first temple, in 586 B.C.E, most of the Israelites were expelled from the promised land, and only few stayed in the promised land that in those days became a Babylonian province. Every exile had an effect on the people of Israel and confronted them with new ideas, conceptions and rituals.
However, in order to understand the significant changes, we need to start over from the beginning, literally and metaphorically. In Genesis 1, we can find the fundamental story of creation of the world and humanity.
This chapter reveals to us how in six days our whole planet was created, and the idea is that only the One and only created everything from one end to the other, or in other words- Monotheism.
In genesis 1 G-d is abstract, his power is related to his words and the implementation of them. No one can see him. No one can describe him. However, at the end of this chapter, there is a small glance into his world, when we read Genesis 1:26:
"...וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים, נַעֲשֶׂה אָדָם בְּצַלְמֵנוּ כִּדְמוּתֵנוּ; וְיִרְדּוּ בִדְגַת הַיָּם וּבְעוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם"
"And God said: 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth...".
Those words are the only ones that could be sensual to him. When he decides to consult with the angels (or with other gods, or maybe he was just trying to teach us to consult!) about creating humanity, we can say that he is sharing with us, his creatures, a small part of his power, his image- probably one of his qualities ( this is actually the image of G-d!).
Let us come back now to the exile. Isaiah is one of the prophets that tries to cheer up the people of Israel. This encouragement is needed not just as words, but also with actions. Furthermore, we must pay attention to the change in G-d in this chapter. Let us see the words and analyze them.
נַחֲמוּ נַחֲמוּ, עַמִּי--יֹאמַר, אֱלֹהֵיכֶם
דַּבְּרוּ עַל-לֵב יְרוּשָׁלִַם, וְקִרְאוּ אֵלֶיהָ—
כִּי מָלְאָה צְבָאָהּ, כִּי נִרְצָה עֲוֹנָהּ:
כִּי לָקְחָה מִיַּד יְהוָה, כִּפְלַיִם בְּכָל-חַטֹּאתֶיהָ
קוֹל קוֹרֵא--בַּמִּדְבָּר, פַּנּוּ דֶּרֶךְ יְהוָה;
יַשְּׁרוּ, בָּעֲרָבָה, מְסִלָּה, לֵאלֹהֵינוּ.
כָּל-גֶּיא, יִנָּשֵׂא, וְכָל-הַר וְגִבְעָה, יִשְׁפָּלוּ;
וְהָיָה הֶעָקֹב לְמִישׁוֹר, וְהָרְכָסִים לְבִקְעָה.
וְנִגְלָה, כְּבוֹד יְהוָה;
וְרָאוּ כָל-בָּשָׂר יַחְדָּו, כִּי פִּי יְהוָה דִּבֵּר
"Comfort you, comfort you my people, said your God
Bid Jerusalem take heart, and proclaim unto her,
That her time of service is accomplished, that her guilt is paid off;
That she hath received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins
Hark! One called: 'Clear you in the wilderness the way of the LORD, make plain in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill shall be made low;
And the rugged shall be made level, and the rough places a plain;
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."
G-d is dealing with his sinful people in another way. First of all, he comforts them and even makes a confession- the people of Jerusalem received a worse punishment than they should have got! God's voice and glory are the main power here; all the flesh (people) will see that he is the one who promises and performs. Everyone will see G-d taking his people from Babylon to the promised land. All nature will have to listen to G-d. The change in the mountains, hills and Valleys are for me a change also in the description of G-d, from the abstract to the sensual, from a far and distant one, to a close one, with his people!
People need to feel their G-d in their senses, in order to be better believers and the words of Isaiah reveal to us a different G-d from the one we read about in Genesis.
In verses 10-11 in Isaiah 40, we can see that G-d has a strong arm;
as a shepherd he will take his flock, especially the young and the old to the promised land.
The most amazing verses for me are 12-14, as we read –
מִי-מָדַד בְּשָׁעֳלוֹ מַיִם, וְשָׁמַיִם בַּזֶּרֶת תִּכֵּן
וְכָל בַּשָּׁלִשׁ, עֲפַר הָאָרֶץ;
וְשָׁקַל בַּפֶּלֶס הָרִים, וּגְבָעוֹת בְּמֹאזְנָיִם.
מִי-תִכֵּן אֶת-רוּחַ, יְהוָה; וְאִישׁ, עֲצָתוֹ יוֹדִיעֶנּוּ.
אֶת-מִי נוֹעָץ וַיְבִינֵהוּ, וַיְלַמְּדֵהוּ בְּאֹרַח מִשְׁפָּט;
וַיְלַמְּדֵהוּ דַעַת, וְדֶרֶךְ תְּבוּנוֹת יוֹדִיעֶנּוּ
"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?
Who hath meted out the spirit of the LORD? Or who was His counselor that he might instruct Him?
With whom took He counsel, and who instructed Him, and taught Him in the path of right, and taught Him knowledge, and made Him to know the way of discernment?
The answers for those questions above are clear. Only G-d could create with his hands this world. Only G-d can use the scales and the balance. No one can consult him, unlike the description in Genesis 1. No one can teach him anything!
This is, by no means, a different description of G-d. As we read more in this chapter, we can see that this G-d has no figure, and he never rests, unlike what is written in the first story of creation.
"וְאֶל-מִי, תְּדַמְּיוּן אֵל; וּמַה-דְּמוּת, תַּעַרְכוּ לוֹ"
To whom then will ye liken God? Or what likeness will ye compare unto Him? (Isaiah 40:18)
"הֲלוֹא יָדַעְתָּ אִם-לֹא שָׁמַעְתָּ, אֱלֹהֵי עוֹלָם יְהוָה בּוֹרֵא קְצוֹת הָאָרֶץ--לֹא יִיעַף, וְלֹא יִיגָע"
"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 he weary...?" (Isaiah 40:28)
There is no different G-d here, just a different description of him, more visual and sensual, as we need in order to serve him better!