Isaiah 40:15
Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.
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(15) The nations are as a drop . . .—“Nations” and “isles” bring us into the region of human history, as distinct from that of the material world. “Isles” as elsewhere, stands vaguely for far-off lands, or sea-coasts. The word is that of one who looks on the Mediterranean, and thinks of the unexplored regions that lie in it and around. It is one of Isaiah’s favourite words in this aspect of its meaning.

A drop of a bucket.—Better, on a bucket. Such a drop adds nothing to the weight which the bearer feels; as little do the nations and the isles to the burden which Jehovah bears. The “small dust in the balance” presents another illustration of the same idea.

Isaiah 40:15-17. Behold the nations, &c. — As the drop of a bucket is as nothing when compared with the waters of the immense ocean, so all the nations of the world are as nothing when compared with God; and are counted by him, and in comparison of him, as the small dust which accidentally cleaves to the balance, but makes no alteration of the weight. Behold, he taketh, up the isles, &c. — Those numerous and vast countries, to which they went from Judea by sea, which are commonly called isles in the Scriptures. And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, &c. — Although he is pleased to accept poor and small sacrifices from his people, yet, if men were to offer a sacrifice suitable to his infinite excellency, the whole forest of Lebanon could not afford either a sufficient number of beasts to be sacrificed, or a sufficient quantity of wood to consume the sacrifice. All nations before him — In his eyes, or being set against him, as נגדו properly and usually signifies; are as nothing — In his judgment; or in comparison of him; less than nothing — Less than a thing of naught, or of no account or worth.

40:12-17 All created beings shrink to nothing in comparison with the Creator. When the Lord, by his Spirit, made the world, none directed his Spirit, or gave advice what to do, or how to do it. The nations, in comparison of him, are as a drop which remains in the bucket, compared with the vast ocean; or as the small dust in the balance, which does not turn it, compared with all the earth. 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, Joh 3:16. The services of the church can make no addition to him. Our souls must have perished for ever, if the only Son of the Father had not given himself for us.Behold, the nations - All the nations of the earth. This is designed to show the greatness of God, in comparison with that which strikes man as great - a mighty nation; and the main object seems to be, to show that God could accomplish his purposes without their aid, and that they could not resist him in the execution of his plans. If they were as nothing in comparison with him, how easily could he execute his purposes! If they were as nothing, how little could they resist the execution of his plans!

Are as a drop of a bucket - In comparison with him; or are so esteemed by him. The drop that falls from the bucket in drawing water is a trifle. It has no power, and compared with the waters of the ocean it is as nothing. So small is the power of the nations in comparison with God. "And are counted." Are thought of, regarded, esteemed by him, or in comparison with him.

As the small dust of the balance - The small, fine dust which collects on the best finished and most accurate balance or scales, and which has no effect in making the scales uneven, or making either side preponderate. Nothing can be a more striking representation of the fact that the nations are regarded as nothing in comparison with God.

Behold, he taketh up the isles - Or he is able to do it; he could remove the isles as the fine dust is driven before the whirlwind. A more literal translation of this passage would be, 'Lo, the isles are as the dust which is taken up,' or which one takes up; that is, which is taken up, and carried away by the wind. There is something unusual in the expression that God takes up the isles, and the idea is rather that the isles in his sight are regarded as the fine dust which the wind sweeps away. So the Chaldee renders it, 'Lo, the isles are like ashes which the wind drives away.' The word 'isles,' Vitringa and Jerome regard as denoting not the small portions of land in the sea that are surrounded by water, but lands which are encompassed and enclosed Mesopotamia. But there is no reason why it should not be taken here in its usual signification, as denoting the islands of the sea. They would serve well to be used in connection with mountains and hills in setting forth the vast power of God.

As a very little thing - (כדק keddaq). The word דק daq means theft which is beaten small, or fine; and then fine dust, chaff, or any light thing which the wind easily sweeps away.

15. of—rather, (hanging) from a bucket [Maurer].

he taketh up … as a very little thing—rather, "are as a mere grain of dust which is taken up," namely, by the wind; literally, "one taketh up," impersonally (Ex 16:14) [Maurer].

isles—rather, "lands" in general, answering to "the nations" in the parallel clause; perhaps lands, like Mesopotamia, enclosed by rivers [Jerome] (so Isa 42:15). However, English Version, "isles" answers well to "mountains" (Isa 40:12), both alike being lifted up by the power of God; in fact, "isles" are mountains upheaved from the bed of the sea by volcanic agency; only that he seems here to have passed from unintelligent creatures (Isa 40:12) to intelligent, as nations and lands, that is, their inhabitants.

The nations, all the nations of the world,

are as a drop of a bucket, compared with all the water in the bucket, wherein are innumerable drops: such are they if compared with God.

And are counted by him, and in comparison of him, as the small dust of the balance; which accidentally cleaves to the balance, but makes no alteration in the weight.

The isles; those numerous and vast countries to which they went from Judea by sea, which are commonly called isles, as hath been oft observed.

Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket,.... Not only the Chaldeans and Babylonians, and other nations most known, and most troublesome to the Jews, but all the nations of the world; these, in comparison of God, of his infinite and immense Being, are but as a drop of water that hangs upon the bucket, or falls from it, when water is drawn by it, or is left in it, when poured out of it; which is nothing in comparison of the well out of which the water is drawn, or even of the water in the bucket drawn out of it:

and are accounted as the small dust of the balance; that is, they are accounted nothing of with God, comparatively speaking, any more than the small dust which hangs upon the balance, and gives it no weight, nor turn one way or another, and so is of no consideration. The Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Arabic versions, render it, "as the turn of the scale"; and so the Targum; but the other version more strongly expresses the sense:

behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing; by which are meant not merely islands, properly so called, which are encompassed by the sea, but all such countries which the Jews used to go to by sea, for all such they called isles; these the Lord can take up, or cast away (u), as some render the word; toss them about, overturn and destroy, as a man may take up the most minute thing and cast it from him. The Targum renders it,

"as chaff which flies away;''

or, as others translate it,

"as the ashes of a coal which fly away.''

The word may signify any light thing, as chaff, straw, stubble, feathers, down of thistles, which are easily carried away with the least force; and so Vitringa renders the words, "behold, the isles are as some little thing which flies away".

(u) "projiciet", Pagninus, Tigurine version; so R. Jonah in Ben Melech.

Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.
15–17. The insignificance of collective humanity before Jehovah. The meditation passes from Nature to History, with the same design of encouraging those who doubted Jehovah’s power to save.

a drop of a bucket] Rather: a drop from the bucket; which falls away without appreciably lessening the weight.

the small dust &c.] which does not turn the scale.

the isles] a characteristic word of the second half of Isaiah, occurring 12 times (see Introd. p. xlviii). In the general usage of O.T. it denotes the islands and coastlands of the Mediterranean (comp. the use of the singular by Isaiah in ch. Isaiah 20:6). Etymologically it probably means simply “habitable lands”; and this prophet uses it with great laxity, hardly distinguishing it from “lands” (see esp. ch. Isaiah 42:15).

as a very little thing] “a grain of powder,” used of the manna, Exodus 16:14.

Verse 15. - Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket. "From nature," as Mr. Cheyne says, "we pass to history." If God is so great, so apart and by himself in relation to the material universe, what is he in relation to man? What are nations, compared to him, but "as a drop from a bucket," which drips from it, and is of no account? What are they, but as the small dust of the balance, which lies on it but does not disturb its equilibrium? They are absolutely "as nothing" (ver. 17) - vanity and emptiness, He taketh up the isles as a very little thing; literally, he taketh up islands, or perhaps lands generally. As he weighs mountains and hills in his balance (ver. 15), so he can take up in his own hands "lands," or "countries" (Cheyne), with all their inhabitants, and do with them as seemeth him good. They are no burden to him. Isaiah 40:15From His exaltation as Creator, the prophet now proceeds to His exaltation as Governor of the world. "Behold, nations like a little drop on a bucket, and like a grain of sand in a balance, are they esteemed; behold, islands like an atom of dust that rises in the air." Upon Jehovah, the King of the world, does the burden rest of ruling over the whole human race, which is split up into different nations; but the great masses of people over whom Jehovah rules are no more burden to Him than a drop hanging upon a bucket is a burden to the man who carries it (min is used in the same sense as in Sol 4:1; Sol 6:5), no more than the weight in a balance is perceptibly increased or diminished by a grain of sand that happens to lie upon it (shachaq, from shâchaq, to grind to powder). The islands, those fragments of firm ground in the midst of the ocean (אי equals ivy, from אוה, to betake one's self to a place, and remain there), upon which the heathen world was dispersed (Genesis 10), are to Him who carries the universe like the small particle of dust (דּק from דּקק, to crush or pulverize), which is lifted up, viz., by the slightest breath of wind (יטּול metaplastic fut. niph. of tūl equals nâtal, cf., Isaiah 63:9). The rendering of Knobel, "dust which is thrown," would require עפר (Isaiah 41:2); and neither that of Gesenius, viz., "He takes up islands like a particle of dust," nor that of Hitzig, "He carries islands," etc., is admissible, for טוּל equals נטל signifies tollere, not portare; and the former, viz., insulas tollit, furnishes no answer to the question, "How so, and to what end?"
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