Isaiah 65 Study Notes


65:1-2 In these and the following verses, God responded to the people’s prayer uttered by Isaiah. God first described his total openness and accessibility to the people. Even more, he sought them out, though they should be the ones who were seeking him out. God would spread out his hands in welcome to people who had passed him by. Paul quotes these verses in Rm 10:20-21.

65:3 The rebellion of the people is enumerated in terms of their false worship. False worship modeled on the pattern of Canaanite religion was carried on in garden areas. Canaanite worship was part of fertility worship, often featuring sacred gardens and trees. Such false religion was condemned in Dt 12:2; Jr 3:9; and Hs 4:13. Incense offerings are often associated with the worship of a god like Baal or a goddess like Asherah (17:8; 27:9; Ezk 6:6; Hs 11:2).

65:4 God’s description of false religion continues with a mention of those who sat among the graves. The worship of departed ancestors was a feature of Canaanite religion. Eating the meat of pigs was particularly sinful because pork was considered an unclean food (Lv 11:7).

65:5 Ironically, these sinful people claimed to be holy, which God considered extremely irritating.

65:6-7 God accused his people of reproaching him on the mountains and hills. False worship on “high places” was condemned (Dt 12:2; 2Kg 17:10; Jr 2:20-21; Ezk 6:13; 20:28; Hs 4:13).

65:8-9 Using the analogy of a bunch of grapes, God announced that he would not destroy the good grapes out of the bunch but would use them to make new wine. The analogy presents the idea that God will preserve a faithful remnant of his people after the judgment.

65:10 Sharon was the name of the foothills west of Jerusalem, famous for wildflowers. In 33:9 Sharon was described as a desert as a result of God’s judgment (35:2). The Valley of Achor (lit “Valley of Trouble”) received its name in the early days of the conquest of Canaan (Jos 7:16-26) when Achan stole some of the plunder from the city of Jericho. Because of his theft, Israel was defeated at the city of Ai. In Isaiah’s vision of a restored remnant, Achor was a peaceful and prosperous place. See Hs 2:15 for a similar use of the name Achor in a positive prophetic context. Since the Valley of Achor was located in the east (near Jericho) and Sharon was in the west, the two together signified that all of Israel would be prosperous.

65:11-12 Fortune (Hb gad) and Destiny (Hb meni ) are personified as objects of false worship. Gad is thought to be a minor Canaanite god, while Meni is more obscure but “thought to be venerated by the Arabs in the pre-Islamic period” (Brevard Childs, Isaiah). While God had good things in store for the faithful remnant, those among his people who continued to worship false deities would meet a horrible end.

65:13-16 In this section God continued the distinction between those who followed him and were his servants and those who rejected him. The former will enjoy life; the latter will suffer.

65:15 Because of their sin, the wicked have a bad reputation (name). What they do to create that reputation becomes a curse for God’s people. On the other hand, God’s people will get a new name (see note at 62:2), a new start after the judgment.

65:16 Blessing, a pleasant and prosperous life, comes only through God, not through false gods like Fortune and Destiny (see note at vv. 11-12).

65:17 Just as God will give his people a “new name” after his judgment and restoration (see notes at v. 15; 62:2), so he will create a new heaven and a new earth. The past events are acts of sin by the people that resulted in God’s judgment.

65:18-19 God’s original intention for Jerusalem will be fulfilled (see Ps 48:1 where it is called “the joy of the whole earth”). Its sin and God’s judgment had reduced it to the point where it was “a horror to all the earth’s kingdoms” (Jr 34:17), but now it will be a joy.

65:20-22 The future blessing of Jerusalem includes long life for its inhabitants. Infant mortality rates will disappear and old people will survive even longer. If someone dies at age one hundred, it will be considered tragic because he was just a young man compared to others. Further blessing will come in the form of shelter and agricultural abundance.

65:23 In the past the labor of God’s people had been enjoyed by others as he allowed foreign nations to take them over. Their children had been born to disaster since the enemy would either kill them or deport them. But this will change in God’s “new heaven” and “new earth” (see note at v. 17). The blessing of work and of childbearing was first troubled at the time of the fall into sin (Gn 3:16-19). The language of this verse suggests a reversal of these curses.

65:24 The relationship with the Lord will be so close that he will anticipate their needs, and they will pray in accordance with his will.

65:25 The pronouncement uses language that suggests a restoration of Eden-like conditions. Wolves would normally eat lambs, but they will eat peacefully together. The lion, another predator, will eat straw rather than other animals. The serpent will eat dust, reminiscent of the serpent’s role in Gn 3. The similar language in Is 11:6-9 suggests a connection with the theme of the Messiah expressed in those verses.