God looks at the heart, and vengeance is threatened for guilt. (1-4) The increase of the church, when Jew and Gentile shall be gathered to the Redeemer. (5-14) Every enemy of the church shall be destroyed, and the final ruin of ungodly men shall be seen. (15-24)
Verses 1-4 The Jews gloried much in their temple. But what satisfaction can the Eternal Mind take in a house made with men's hands? God has a heaven and an earth of his own making, and temples of man's making; but he overlooks them, that he may look with favour to him who is poor in spirit and serious, self-abasing and self-denying; whose heart truly sorrows for sin: such a heart is a living temple for God. The sacrifice of the wicked is not only unacceptable, but a great offence to God. And he that now offers a sacrifice after the law, does in effect set aside Christ's sacrifice. He that burns incense, puts contempt upon the incense of Christ's intercession, and is as if he blessed an idol. Men shall be deceived by the vain confidences with which they deceive themselves. Unbelieving hearts, and unpurified consciences, need no more to make them miserable, than to have their own fears brought upon them. Whatever men put in the place of the priesthood, atonement, and intercession of Christ, will be found hateful to God.
Verses 5-14 The prophet turns to those that trembled at God's word, to comfort and encourage them. The Lord will appear, to the joy of the humble believer, and to the confusion of hypocrites and persecutors. When the Spirit was poured out, and the gospel went forth from Zion, multitudes were converted in a little time. The word of God, especially his promises, and ordinances, are the consolations of the church. The true happiness of all Christians is increased by every convert brought to Christ. The gospel brings with it, wherever it is received in its power, such a river of peace, as will carry us to the ocean of boundless and endless bliss. Divine comforts reach the inward man; the joy of the Lord will be the strength of the believer. Both God's mercy and justice shall be manifested, and for ever magnified.
Verses 15-24 A prophetic declaration is given of the Lord's vengeance on all enemies of his church, especially that of all antichristian opposers of the gospel in the latter days. Ver. ( isaiah 66:19-20 ) sinners. These expressions are figurative, and express the plentiful and gracious helps for bringing God's elect home to Christ. All shall be welcome; and nothing shall be wanting for their assistance and encouragement. A gospel ministry shall be set up in the church; they would have solemn worship before the Lord. In the last verse the nature of the punishment of sinners in the world to come is represented. Then shall the righteous and wicked be separated. Our Saviour applies this to the everlasting misery and torment of impenitent sinners in the future state. To the honour of that free grace which thus distinguishes them, let the redeemed of the Lord, with humility, and not without holy trembling, sing triumphant songs. With this affecting representation of the opposite states of the righteous and wicked, characters which include the whole human race, Isaiah concludes his prophecies. May God grant, for Christ's sake, that our portion may be with those who fear and love his name, who cleave to his truths, and persevere in every good work, looking to receive from the Lord Jesus Christ the gracious invitation, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
Isaiah 66:1-24 . THE HUMBLE COMFORTED, THE UNGODLY CONDEMNED, AT THE LORD'S APPEARING: JERUSALEM MADE A JOY ON EARTH.
This closing chapter is the summary of Isaiah's prophecies as to the last days, hence the similarity of its sentiments with what went before.
1. heaven . . . throne . . . where is . . . house . . . ye build--The same sentiment is expressed, as a precautionary proviso for the majesty of God in deigning to own any earthly temple as His, as if He could be circumscribed by space ( 1 Kings 8:27 ) in inaugurating the temple of stone; next, as to the temple of the Holy Ghost ( Acts 7:48 Acts 7:49 ); lastly here, as to "the tabernacle of God with men" ( Isaiah 2:2 Isaiah 2:3 , Ezekiel 43:4 Ezekiel 43:7 , Revelation 21:3 ).
where--rather, "what is this house that ye are building, &c.--what place is this for My rest?" [VITRINGA].
2. have been--namely, made by Me. Or, absolutely, were things made; and therefore belong to Me, the Creator [JEROME].
poor--humble ( Isaiah 57:15 ).
trembleth at . . . word--( 2 Kings 22:11 2 Kings 22:19 , Ezra 9:4 ). The spiritual temple of the heart, though not superseding the outward place of worship, is God's favorite dwelling ( John 14:23 ). In the final state in heaven there shall be "no temple," but "the Lord God" Himself ( Revelation 21:22 ).
3. God loathes even the sacrifices of the wicked ( Isaiah 1:11 , Proverbs 15:8 , 28:9 ).
is as if--LOWTH not so well omits these words: "He that killeth an ox (presently after) murders a man" (as in Ezekiel 23:39 ). But the omission in the Hebrew of "is as if"--increases the force of the comparison. Human victims were often offered by the heathen.
dog's neck--an abomination according to the Jewish law ( Deuteronomy 23:18 ); perhaps made so, because dogs were venerated in Egypt. He does not honor this abomination by using the word "sacrifice," but uses the degrading term, "cut off a dog's neck" ( Exodus 13:13 , 34:20 ). Dogs as unclean are associated with swine ( Matthew 7:6 , 2 Peter 2:22 ).
oblation--unbloody: in antithesis to "swine's blood" ( Isaiah 65:4 ).
burneth--Hebrew, "he who offereth as a memorial oblation" ( Leviticus 2:2 ).
they have chosen--opposed to the two first clauses of Isaiah 66:4 : "as they have chosen their own ways, &c., so I will choose their delusions.
4. delusions--( 2 Thessalonians 2:11 ), answering to "their own ways" ( Isaiah 66:3 ; so Proverbs 1:31 ). However, the Hebrew means rather "vexations," "calamities," which also the parallelism to "fears" requires; "choose their calamities" means, "choose the calamities which they thought to escape by their own ways."
their fears--the things they feared, to avert which their idolatrous "abominations" ( Isaiah 66:3 ) were practised.
I called . . . none . . .
did . . . chose--not only did the evil deed, but did it deliberately as a matter of choice ( Romans 1:32 ). "They chose that in which I delighted not"; therefore, "I will choose" that in which they delight not, the "calamities" and "fears" which they were most anxious to avert.
5. tremble at . . . word--the same persons as in Isaiah 66:2 , the believing few among the Jews.
cast you out for my name's sake--excommunicate, as if too polluted to worship with them ( Isaiah 65:5 ). So in Christ's first sojourn on earth ( Matthew 10:22 , John 9:22 John 9:34 , 16:2 , 15:21 ). So it shall be again in the last times, when the believing shall be few ( Luke 18:8 ).
Let the Lord be glorified--the mocking challenge of the persecutors, as if their violence towards you was from zeal for God. "Let the Lord show Himself glorious," namely, by manifesting Himself in your behalf; as the parallelism to, "He shall appear to your joy," requires (as in Isaiah 5:19 ; compare Isaiah 28:15 , 57:4 ). So again Christ on the cross ( Matthew 27:42 Matthew 27:43 ).
appear to your joy--giving you "joy" instead of your "rebuke" ( Isaiah 25:8 Isaiah 25:9 ).
6. God, from Jerusalem and His "temple," shall take vengeance on the enemy ( Ezekiel 43:1-8 , Zechariah 12:2 Zechariah 12:3 , Zechariah 14:3 Zechariah 14:19-21 ). The abrupt language of this verse marks the suddenness with which God destroys the hostile Gentile host outside: as Isaiah 66:5 refers to the confounding of the unbelieving Jews.
voice of noise--that is, the Lord's loud-sounding voice ( Psalms 68:33 , 29:3-9 , 1 Thessalonians 4:16 ).
Before . . . travailed . . . brought forth--The accession of numbers, and of prosperity to her, shall be sudden beyond all expectation and unattended with painful effort ( Isaiah 54:1 Isaiah 54:4 Isaiah 54:5 ). Contrast with this case of the future Jewish Church the travail-pains of the Christian Church in bringing forth "a man child" ( Revelation 12:2 Revelation 12:5 ). A man child's birth is in the East a matter of special joy, while that of a female is not so; therefore, it here means the manly sons of the restored Jewish Church, the singular being used collectively for the plural: or the many sons being regarded as one under Messiah, who shall then be manifested as their one representative Head.
8. earth--rather, to suit the parallelism, "is a country (put for the people in it) brought forth in one day?" [LOWTH]. In English Version it means, The earth brings forth its productions gradually, not in one day ( Mark 4:28 ).
at once--In this case, contrary to the usual growth of the nations by degrees, Israel starts into maturity at once.
for--rather, "is a nation born at once, that Zion has, so soon as she travailed, brought forth?" [MAURER].
9. cause to bring forth, and shut--rather, "Shall I who beget, restrain the birth?" [LOWTH], ( Isaiah 37:3 , Hosea 13:13 ); that is, Shall I who have begun, not finish My work of restoring Israel? ( 1 Samuel 3:12 , Romans 11:1 , Philippians 1:6 ).
shut--(compare Revelation 3:7 Revelation 3:8 ).
10. love . . . mourn for her--( Psalms 102:14 Psalms 102:17 Psalms 102:20 , 122:6 ).
11. suck--( Isaiah 60:5 Isaiah 60:16 , 61:6 , 49:23 ).
abundance--Hebrew, "the ray-like flow of her opulence," that is, with the milk spouting out from her full breasts (answering to the parallel, "breast of her consolations") in ray-like streams [GESENIUS].
12. extend--I will turn peace (prosperity) upon her, like a river turned in its course [GESENIUS]. Or, "I will spread peace over her as an overflowing river" [BARNES], ( Isaiah 48:18 ).
flowing stream--as the Nile by its overflow fertilizes the whole of Egypt.
borne upon . . .
her . . . her--If "ye" refers to the Jews, translate, "ye shall be borne upon their sides . . . their knees," namely, those of the Gentiles, as in Isaiah 49:22 ; and as "suck" ( Isaiah 60:16 ) refers to the Jews sucking the Gentile wealth. However, English Version gives a good sense: The Jews, and all who love Jehovah ( Isaiah 66:10 ), "shall suck, and be borne" by her as a mother.
13. mother--( Isaiah 49:15 ).
comforteth--( Isaiah 40:1 Isaiah 40:2 ).
14. bones--which once were "dried up" by the "fire" of God's wrath ( Lamentations 1:13 ), shall live again ( Proverbs 3:8 , 15:30 , Ezekiel 37:1 , &c.).
flourish . . . herb--( Romans 11:15-24 ).
known toward--manifested in behalf of.
15. ( Isaiah 9:5 , Psalms 50:3 , Habakkuk 3:5 , 2 Thessalonians 1:8 , 2 Peter 3:7 ).
chariots . . . whirlwind--( Jeremiah 4:13 ).
render--as the Hebrew elsewhere ( Job 9:13 , Psalms 78:38 ) means to "allay" or "stay wrath." MAURER translates it so here: He stays His anger with nothing but fury," &c.; nothing short of pouring out all His fiery fury will satisfy His wrath.
fury--"burning heat" [LOWTH], to which the parallel, "flames of fire," answers.
16. Rather, "With fire will Jehovah judge, and with His sword (He will judge) all flesh." The parallelism and collocation of the Hebrew words favor this ( Isaiah 65:12 ).
all flesh--that is, all who are the objects of His wrath. The godly shall be hidden by the Lord in a place of safety away from the scene of judgment ( Isaiah 26:20 Isaiah 26:21 , Psalms 31:20 , 1 Thessalonians 4:16 1 Thessalonians 4:17 ).
17. in . . . gardens--Hebrew and the Septuagint rather require, "for (entering into) gardens," namely, to sacrifice there [MAURER].
behind one tree--rather, "following one," that is, some idol or other, which, from contempt, he does not name [MAURER]. VITRINGA, &c., think the Hebrew for "one," Ahhadh, to be the name of the god; called Adad (meaning One) in Syria (compare Acts 17:23 ). The idol's power was represented by inclined rays, as of the sun shining on the earth. GESENIUS translates, "following one," namely, Hierophant ("priest"), who led the rest in performing the sacred rites.
in . . . midst--namely, of the garden
mouse--legally unclean ( Leviticus 11:29 ) because it was an idol to the 1 Samuel 6:4 ). Translate, "the field mouse," or "dormouse" [BOCHART]. The Pharisees with their self-righteous purifications, and all mere formalists, are included in the same condemnation, described in language taken from the idolatries prevalent in Isaiah's times.
18. know--not in the Hebrew. Rather, understand the words by aposiopesis; it is usual in threats to leave the persons threatened to supply the hiatus from their own fears, owing to conscious guilt: "For I . . . their works and thoughts," &c.; namely, will punish [MAURER].
it shall come--the time is come that I will, &c. [MAURER].
gather . . . nations--against Jerusalem, where the ungodly Jews shall perish; and then the Lord at last shall fight for Jerusalem against those nations: and the survivors ( Isaiah 66:19 ) shall "see God's glory" ( Zechariah 12:8 Zechariah 12:9 , Zechariah 14:1-3 Zechariah 14:9 ).
tongues--which have been many owing to sin, being confounded at Babel, but which shall again be one in Christ ( Daniel 7:14 , Zephaniah 3:9 , Revelation 7:9 Revelation 7:10 ).
19. sign--a banner on a high place, to indicate the place of meeting for the dispersed Jewish exiles, preparatory to their return to their land ( Isaiah 5:26 , 11:12 , 62:10 ).
those that escape of them--the Gentile survivors spared by God Zechariah 14:16 ). Isaiah 2:2 Isaiah 2:3 , Micah 5:7 ; and Zechariah 14:16-19 represent it, not that the Jews go as missionaries to the Gentiles, but that the Gentiles come up to Jerusalem to learn the Lord's ways there.
Tarshish--Tartessus in Spain, in the west.
Pul--east and north of Africa: probably the same as Philoe, an island in the Nile, called by the Egyptians Pilak, that is, the border country, being between Egypt and Ethiopia [BOCHART].
Lud--the Libyans of Africa ( Genesis 10:13 ), Ludim being son of Mizraim (Egypt): an Ethiopian people famous as bowmen ( Jeremiah 46:9 ): employed as mercenaries by Tyre and Egypt ( Ezekiel 27:10 , 30:5 ).
Tubal--Tibarenians, in Asia Minor, south of the Caucasus, between the Black Sea and Araxes. Or, the Iberians [JOSEPHUS]. Italy [JEROME].
Javan--the Greeks; called Ionians, including all the descendants of Javan, both in Greece and in Asia Minor ( Genesis 10:2-4 ).
my glory . . . Gentiles--( Malachi 1:11 ).
20. they--the Gentiles ( Isaiah 66:19 ).
bring . . . your brethren--the Jews, back to the Holy Land ( Isaiah 49:22 ). It cannot mean the mere entrance of the Jews into the Christian Church; for such an entrance would be by faith, not upon "horses, litters, and mules" [HOUBIGANT]. "Offering" is metaphorical, as in Romans 15:16 .
horses--not much used by the Jews. The Gentiles are here represented as using their modes of conveyance to "bring" the Jews to Jerusalem.
chariots--as these are not found in Oriental caravans, translate, "vehicles," namely, borne, not drawn on wheels.
litters--covered sedans for the rich.
upon swift beasts--dromedaries: from Hebrew root, "to dance," from their bounding motion, often accelerated by music [BOCHART]. Panniers were thrown across the dromedaries' back for poorer women [HORSLEY].
21. of them--the Gentiles.
priests . . . Levites--for spiritual worship: enjoying the direct access to God which was formerly enjoyed by the ministers of the temple alone ( 1 Peter 2:9 , Revelation 1:6 ).
22. ( Isaiah 65:17 , 2 Peter 3:13 , Revelation 21:1 ).
23. Literally, "As often as the new moon (shall be) in its own new moon," that is, every month ( Zechariah 14:16 ).
sabbath--which is therefore perpetually obligatory on earth.
all flesh--( Psalms 65:2 , 72:11 ).
before me--at Jerusalem ( Jeremiah 3:16 Jeremiah 3:17 ).
24. go forth, and look--as the Israelites looked at the carcasses of the Egyptians destroyed at the Red Sea ( Exodus 14:30 ; compare Isaiah 26:14-19 , Psalms 58:10 , 49:14 , Malachi 4:1-3 ).
carcasses, &c.--( Isaiah 66:16 ), those slain by the Lord in the last great battle near Jerusalem ( Zechariah 12:2-9 , 14:2-4 ); type of the final destruction of all sinners.
worm . . . not die--( mark 9:44 mark 9:46 mark 9:48 ). Image of hell, from bodies left unburied in the valley of Hinnom (whence comes Gehenna, or "hell"), south of Jerusalem, where a perpetual fire was kept to consume the refuse thrown there ( Isaiah 30:33 ). It shall not be inconsistent with true love for the godly to look with satisfaction on God's vengeance on the wicked ( Revelation 14:10 ). May God bless this Commentary, and especially its solemn close, to His glory, and to the edification of the writer and the readers of it, for Jesus' sake!