These lines begin the portion of the larger Isaiah collection known as Second Isaiah. As such, they mark one of the most significant transitions in the Judeo-Christian tradition – and indeed, in all of human religious thought. With the ringing proclamation that begins this passage, “Comfort, O comfort my people... Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,” the prophet’s message changes from condemnation to comfort. Isaiah pushes back the very boundaries of human religious imagination: daring to envision a God who is larger than a single nation or culture, whose zeal for justice is tempered by tender love. Prepare the way for this just and loving Lord, Isaiah proclaims, who will lead dispirited exiles home again!
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