Adam Clarke Commentary
We have here a vindication of God's dealings with the Jews, Isaiah 65:1, Isaiah 65:2. To this end the prophet points out their great hypocrisy, and gives a particular enumeration of their dreadful abominations, many of which were committed under the specious guise of sanctity, Isaiah 65:3-5. For their horrid impieties, (recorded in writing before Jehovah), the wrath of God shall certainly come upon them to the uttermost; a prediction which was exactly fulfilled in the first and second centuries in the reigns of the Roman emperors Vespasian, Titus, and Hadrian, when the whole Jewish polity was dissolved, and the people dispersed all over the world, Isaiah 65:6, Isaiah 65:7. Though God had rejected the Jews, and called the Gentiles, who sought him not, ( Romans 9:24-26;), yet a remnant from among the former shall be preserved, to whom he will in due time make good all his promises, Isaiah 65:8-10. Denunciation of Divine vengeance against those idolaters who set in order a table for Gad, and fill out a libation to Meni, ancient idolatries, which, from the context, and from the chronological order of the events predicted, have a plain reference to the idolatries practiced by Antichrist under the guise of Christianity, Isaiah 65:11, Isaiah 65:12. Dreadful fate which awaits these gross idolaters beautifully contrasted with the great blessedness reserved for the righteous, Isaiah 65:13-16. Future restoration of the posterity of Jacob, and the happy state of the world in general from that most glorious epoch, represented by the strong figure of the creation of new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness, and into which no distress shall be permitted to enter, Isaiah 65:17-19. In this new state of things the term of human life shall be greatly protracted, and shall possess none of that uncertainty which attaches to it in "the heavens and the earth which are now." This is elegantly illustrated by the longevity of a tree; manifestly alluding to the oak or cedar of Lebanon, some individuals of which are known to have lived from seven to ten centuries, Isaiah 65:20-23. Beautiful figures shadowing forth the profound peace and harmony of the Church of Jesus Christ, which shall immediately follow the total overthrow of Antichrist; with a most gracious promise that the great chain of Omnipotence shall be put upon every adversary, so that none will be able any longer to hurt and destroy in all God's holy mountain, Isaiah 65:24, Isaiah 65:25.
This chapter contains a defense of God's proceedings in regard to the Jews, with reference to their complaint in the chapter preceding. God is introduced declaring that he had called the Gentiles, though they had not sought him; and had rejected his own people for their refusal to attend to his repeated call; for their obstinate disobedience, their idolatrous practices, and detestable hypocrisy. That nevertheless he would not destroy them all; but would preserve a remnant, to whom he would make good his ancient promises. Severe punishments are threatened to the apostates; and great rewards are promised to the obedient in a future flourishing state of the Church. - L.
I am sought of them that asked not for me "I am made known to those that asked not for me" - נדרשתי nidrashti, εμφανης εγενομην, the Septuagint, Alexandrian, and St. Paul, Romans 10:20; who has however inverted the order of the phrases, εμφανης εγενομην, "I was made manifest, "and ευρεδην, "I was found, "from that which they have in the Septuagint. נדרשתי nidrashti means, "I am sought so as to be found." Vitringa. If this be the true meaning of the word, then שאלו shaalu, "that asked," which follows, should seem defective, the verb wanting its object: but two MSS., one of them ancient, have שאלוני shealuni, "asked me;" and another MS. לי שאלו shealu li, "asked for me;" one or other of which seems to be right. But Cocceius in Lex., and Vitringa in his translation, render נדרשתי nidrashti, by "I have answered;" and so the verb is rendered by all the ancient Versions in Ezekiel 20:3, Ezekiel 20:31. If this be right, the translation will be, "I have answered those that asked not." I leave this to the reader's judgment; but have followed in my translation the Septuagint and St. Paul, and the MSS. above mentioned. בקשני bikeshuni is written regularly and fully in above a hundred MSS. and in the oldest edition, בקשוני bikeshuni . - L.
That sacrificeth in gardens, and burneth incense upon altars of brick "Sacrificing in the gardens, and burning incense on the tiles" - These are instances of heathenish superstition, and idolatrous practices, to which the Jews were immoderately addicted before the Babylonish captivity. The heathen worshipped their idols in groves; whereas God, in opposition to this species of idolatry, commanded his people, when they should come into the promised land, to destroy all the places wherein the Canaanites had served their gods, and in particular to burn their groves with fire, Deuteronomy 12:2, Deuteronomy 12:3. These apostate Jews sacrificed upon altars built of bricks; in opposition to the command of God in regard to his altar, which was to be of unhewn stone, Exodus 20:26. Et pro uno altari, quod impolitis lapidibus Dei erat lege constructum, coctos lateres et agrorum cespites hostiarum sanguine cruentabant. "And instead of one altar which, according to the law of God, was, to be constructed of unhewn stones, they stained the bricks and turfs of the fields with the blood of their victims." Hieron. in loc. Or it means, perhaps, that they sacrificed upon the roofs of their houses, which were always flat, and paved with brick, or tile, or plaster of terrace. An instance of this idolatrous practice we find in 2 Kings 23:12, where it is said that Josiah "beat down the altars that were on the top of the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made." See also Zephaniah 1:5. Sir John Chardin's MS. note on this place of Isaiah is as follows: "Ainsi font tous les Gentiles, sur les lieux eleves, et sur les terrasses, appellez latcres, pareeque sont faits de briq." "Who dwell in the sepulchres, and lodge in the caverns," for the purposes of necromancy and divination; to obtain dreams and revelations. Another instance of heathenish superstition: so Virgil: -
Huc dona sacerdos
Cum tulit, et caesarum ovium sub nocte silenti
Pellibus incubuit stratis, somnosque petivit:
Multa modis simulacra videt volitantia miris,
Et varias audit voces, fruiturque deorum
Colloquio, atque imis Acheronta affatur Avernis.
Aen. 7:86. - L.
"Here in distress the Italian nations come,
Anxious, to clear their doubts, and learn their doom.
First, on the fleeces of the slaughtered sheep,
By night the sacred priest dissolves in sleep:
When in a train, before his slumbering eye,
Thin airy forms and wondrous visions fly.
He calls the powers who guard the infernal floods,
And talks inspired, familiar with the gods."
There was a practice exactly like this which prevailed among the Highlanders of Scotland; an authentic account of this is given by Sir Walter Scott, in a note on his poem called The Lady of the Lake. It is as follows: -
"The Highlanders, like all rude people, had various superstitious modes of inquiring into futurity. One of the most noted was the Taghairm, mentioned in the text. A person was wrapped up in the skin of a newly-slain bullock, and deposited beside a waterfall, or at the bottom of a precipice, or in some other strange, wild, and unusual situation, where the scenery around him suggested nothing but objects of horror. In this situation he revolved in his mind the question proposed; and whatever was impressed upon him by his exalted imagination passed for the inspiration of the disembodied spirits who haunt these desolate recesses. In some of the Hebrides, they attributed the same oracular power to a large black stone by the sea-shore, which they approached with certain solemnities; and considered the first fancy which came into their own minds after they did so, to be the undoubted dictate of the tutelar deity of the stone; and as such to be, if possible, punctually complied with. Martin has recorded the following curious modes of Highland augury, in which the Taghairm, and its effects upon the person who was subjected to it, may serve to illustrate the text.
"It was an ordinary thing among the over-curious to consult an invisible oracle concerning the fate of families and battles, etc. This was performed three different ways; the first was by a company of men, one of whom, being detached by lot, was afterwards carried to a river, which was the boundary between two villages. Four of the company laid hold on him; and, having shut his eyes, they took him by the legs and arms, and then, tossing him to and again, struck his hips with force against the bank. One of them cried out, What is it you have got here? Another answers, A log of birch-wood. The other cries again, Let his invisible friends appear from all quarters, and let them relieve him by giving an answer to our present demands; and in a few minutes after, a number of little creatures came from the sea, who answered the question, and disappeared suddenly. The man was then set at liberty; and they all returned home, to take their measures according to the prediction of their false prophets; but the poor deluded fools were abused, for the answer was still ambiguous. This was always practiced in the night, and may literally be called the works of darkness.
"I had an account from the most intelligent and judicious men in the Isle of Skie, that, about sixty-two years ago, the oracle was thus consulted only once, and that was in the parish of Kilmartin, on the east side, by a wicked and mischievous race of people, who are now extinguished, both root and branch.
"The second way of consulting the oracle was by a party of men, who first retired to solitary places, remote from any house; and there they singled out one of their number, and wrapt him in a big cow's hide, which they folded about him. His whole body was covered with it, except his head, and so left in this posture all night, until his invisible friends relieved him, by giving a proper answer to the question in hand; which he received, as he fancied, from several persons that he found about him all that time. His consorts returned to him at the break of day, and then he communicated his news to them; which often proved fatal to those concerned in such unwarrantable inquiries.
"There was a third way of consulting, which was a confirmation of the second above mentioned. The same company who put the man into the hide took a live cat, and put him on a spit. One of the number was employed to turn the spit, and one of his consorts inquired of him, What are you doing? He answered, I roast this cat until his friends answer the question; which must be the same that was proposed by the man shut up in the hide. And afterwards, a very big cat (in allusion to the story of 'the King of the Cats,' in Lord Lyttleton's Letters, and well known in the Highlands as a nursery tale) comes, attended by a number of lesser cats, desiring to relieve the cat turned upon the spit, and then answers the question. If this answer proved the same that was given to the man in the hide, then it was taken as a confirmation of the other, which, in this case, was believed infallible.
"Mr. Alexander Cooper, present minister of North-Vist, told me that one John Erach, in the Isle of Lewis, assured him it was his fate to have been led by his curiosity with some who consulted this oracle, and that he was a night within the hide, as above-mentioned; during which time he felt and heard such terrible things, that he could not express them. The impression it made on him was such as could never go off; and he said for a thousand worlds he would never again be concerned in the like performance, for this had disordered him to a high degree. He confessed it ingenuously, and with an air of great remorse; and seemed to be very penitent under a just sense of so great a crime. He declared this about five years since, and is still living in the Lewis for any thing I know." - Description of the Western Isles p. 110. See also Pennant's Scottish Tour, vol. 2 p. 361.
Which remain among the graves - "For the purpose of evoking the dead. They lodged in desert places that demons might appear to them; for demons do appear in such places, to those who do believe in them." - Kimchi.
In the monuments "In the caverns" - בנצורים bannetsurim, a word of doubtful signification. An ancient MS. has בצורים batstsurim, another בצרים batstsurim, "in the rocks;" and Le Clec thinks the Septuagint had it so in their copy. They render it by εν τοις στηλαιοις, "in the caves."
Which eat swine's flesh - This was expressly forbidden by the law, Leviticus 11:7, but among the heathen was in principal request in their sacrifices and feasts. Antiochus Epiphanes compelled the Jews to eat swine's flesh, as a full proof of their renouncing their religion, 2 Maccabees 6:18 and 7:1. "And the broth of abominable meats," for lustrations, magical arts, and other superstitious and abominable practices.
In their vessels - For כליהם keleyhem, a MS. had at first בכליהם bichleyhem . So the Vulgate and Chaldee, (and the preposition seems necessary to the sense), "in their vessels."
For I am holier than thou - So the Chaldee renders it.
קדשתיך kedashticha is the same with ממך קדשתי kadashti mimmecha . In the same manner חזקתני chazaktani, Jeremiah 20:7, is used for ממני חזקת chazacta mimmenni, "thou art stronger than I." - L.
Behold, it is written before me - Their sin is registered in heaven, calling aloud for the punishment due to it.
I will - recompense into their bosom - The bosom is the place where the Asiatics have their pockets, and not in their skirts like the inhabitants of the west. Their loose flowing garments have scarcely any thing analogous to skirts.
Into their bosom - For על al, ten MSS. and five editions have אל el . So again at the end of this verse, seventeen MSS. and four editions have אל al . - L.
Your iniquities, and the iniquities of your fathers "Their iniquities, and the iniquities of their fathers" - For the pronoun affixed of the second person חם chem, your, twice, read הם hem, their, in the third person; with the Septuagint and Houbigant. - L.
A blessing is in it - The Hebrews call all things which serve for food ברכה berachah, "a blessing." On this verse Kimchi remarks: "As the cluster of grapes contains, besides the juice, the bark, and the kernels, so the Israelites have, besides the just, sinners among them. Now as the cluster must not be destroyed because there is a blessing, a nutritive part in it; so Israel shall not be destroyed, because there are righteous persons in it. But as the bark and kernels are thrown away, when the wine is pressed out, so shall the sinners be purged away from among the just, and on their return from exile, shall not be permitted to enter into the land of Israel;" Ezekiel 20:38.
For my servant's sakes "For the sake of my servant" - It is to be observed that one of the Koningsburg MSS. collated by Lilienthal points the word עבדי abdi, singular; that is, "my servant," meaning the Messiah; and so read the Septuagint, which gives a very good sense. In two of my old MSS. it is pointed עבדי abadai, and עבדי abdi, "my servant, "this confirms the above reading.
An inheritor of my mountains "An inheritor of my mountain" - הרי hari, in the singular number; so the Septuagint and Syriac; that is, of Mount Sion. See Isaiah 65:11; and Isaiah 56:7, to which Sion, the pronoun feminine singular, added to the verb in the next line, refers; ירשוה yereshuah, "shall inherit her." - L.
Sharon - and the valley of Achor - Two of the most fertile parts of Judea; famous for their rich pastures; the former to the west, not far from Joppa; the latter north of Jericho, near Gilgal.
That prepare a table for that troop "Who set in order a table for Gad" - The disquisitions and conjectures of the learned concerning Gad and Meni are infinite and uncertain: perhaps the most probable may be, that Gad means good fortune, and Meni the moon. "But why should we be solicitous about it?" says Schmidius. "It appears sufficiently, from the circumstances, that they were false gods; either stars, or some natural objects; or a mere fiction. The Holy Scriptures did not deign to explain more clearly what these objects of idolatrous worship were; but chose rather, that the memory of the knowledge of them should be utterly abolished. And God be praised, that they are so totally abolished, that we are now quite at a loss to know what and what sort of things they were." Schmidius on the place, and on Judges 2:13, Bibl. Hallensia.
Jerome, on the place, gives an account of this idolatrous practice of the apostate Jews, of making a feast, or a lectisternium, as the Romans called it, for these pretended deities. Est in cunctis urbibus, et maxime in Aegypto, et in Alexandria, idololatriae vetus consuetudo, ut ultimo die anni, et mensis ejus qui extremus est, ponant mensam refertam varii generis epulis, et poculum mulso mixtum; vel praeteriti anni vel futuri fertilitatem auspicantes. Hoc autem faciebant et Israelitae, omnium simulachrorum portenta venerantes; et nequaquam altari victimas, sed hujusmodi mensae liba fundebant. "In all cities, and especially in Egypt and Alexandria, it was an ancient idolatrous custom on the last day of the year, to spread a table covered with various kinds of viands, and a goblet mixed with new wine, referring to the fertility either of the past or coming year. The Israelites did the same, worshipping all kinds of images, and pouring out libations on such tables," etc. See also Le Clerc on the place; and on Isaiah 66:17, and Dav. Millii Dissert. v.
The allusion to Meni, which signifies number, is obvious. If there had been the like allusion to Gad, which might have been expected, it might perhaps have helped to let us into the meaning of that word. It appears from Jerome's version of this place, that the words τῳ δαιμονιω, to a demon, (or δαιμονι, as some copies have it), and τῃ τυχῃ, to fortune, stood in his time in the Greek version in an inverted order from that which they have in the present copies; the latter then answering to גד gad, the former to מני meni : by which some difficulty would be avoided; for it is commonly supposed that גד gad signifies τυχη, Fortune. See Genesis 30:11, apud Sept. This matter is so far well cleared up by MSS. Pachom. and 1. D. II., which agree in placing these two words in that order, which Jerome's version supposes. - L.
My Old MS. Bible translates: That putten the borde of fortune; and offreden licours upon it; and so the Vulgate.
Ἑτοιμαζοντες τῳ δαιμονιῳ τραπεζαν, και πληρουντες τῃ τυχῃ κερασμα. Preparing a table for the demon, and filling up, or pouring out, a libation to fortune."
Ye have set up an aulter unto fortune
And geven rich drink offeringes unto treasure.
Therefore will I number you - Referring to Meni, which signifies number "Rabbi Eliezar said to his disciples, Turn to God one day before you die. His disciples said, How call a man know the day of his death? He answered, Therefore it is necessary that you should turn to God to-day, for possibly ye may die to-morrow."
My servants shalt eat, but ye shall be hungry - Rabbi Joachan ben Zachai said in a parable: There was a king who invited his servants, but set them no time to come to the feast. The prudent and wary who were among them adorned themselves; and, standing at the gate of the king's house, said, Is there any thing lacking in the king's house? i.e., Is there any work to be done in it? But the foolish which were among them went, and mocking said, When shall the feast be, in which there is no labor? Suddenly, the king sought out his servants: they who were adorned entered in, and they who were still polluted entered in also. The king was glad when he met the prudent, but he was angry when he met the foolish. Therefore he said, Let those sit down, and let them eat; but let these stand and look on.
This parable is very like that of the wise and foolish virgins, Matthew 25, and that of the marriage of the king's son, Matthew 22.
Shall slay thee "Shall slay you" - For והמיתך vehemithecha, shall slay thee, the Septuagint and Chaldee read והמיתכם vehemithechem, shall slay you, plural.
I create new heavens and a new earth - This has been variously understood. Some Jews and some Christians understand it literally. God shall change the state of the atmosphere, and render the earth more fruitful. Some refer it to what they call the Millennium; others, to a glorious state of religion; others, to the re-creation of the earth after it shall have been destroyed by fire. I think it refers to the full conversion of the Jews ultimately; and primarily to the deliverance from the Babylonish captivity.
Rejoice for ever in that which I create "Exult in the age to come which I create" - So in Isaiah 9:5; עד אבי abi ad, πατηρ του μελλοντος αιωνος, "the father of the age to come," Sept. See Bishop Chandler, Defence of Christianity, p. 136.
The voice of weeping, etc. - "Because of untimely deaths shall no more be heard in thee; for natural death shall not happen till men be full of days; as it is written, Isaiah 65:20; : There shall be no more thence an infant of days, i.e., the people shall live to three or five hundred years of age, as in the days of the patriarchs; and if one die at one hundred years, it is because of his sin; and even at that age he shall be reputed an infant; and they shall say of him, An infant is dead. These things shall happen to Israel in the days of the Messiah." - Kimchi.
Thence "There" - For משם mishsham, thence, the Septuagint, Syriac, and Vulgate, read שם sham, there.
They shall not build, and another inhabit - The reverse of the curse denounced on the disobedient, Deuteronomy 28:30; : "Thou shalt build a house, and thou shalt not dwell therein; thou shalt plant a vineyard, and shalt not gather the grapes thereof."
For as the days of a tree - It is commonly supposed that the oak, one of the most longlived of the trees, lasts about a thousand years; being five hundred years growing to full perfection, and as many decaying: which seems to be a moderate and probable computation. See Evelyn, Sylva, B. 3 chap. 3. The present emperor of China, in his very ingenious and sensible poem entitled Eloge de Moukden, a translation of which in French was published at Paris, 1770, speaks of a tree in his country which lives more than a hundred ages: and another, which after fourscore ages is only in its prime, pp. 37, 38. But his imperial majesty's commentators, in their note on the place, carry the matter much farther; and quote authority, which affirms, that the tree last mentioned by the emperor, the immortal tree, after having lived ten thousand years, is still only in its prime. I suspect that the Chinese enlarge somewhat in their national chronology, as well as in that of their trees. See Chou King. Preface, by Mons. de Guignes. The prophet's idea seems to be, that they shall live to the age of the antediluvians; which seems to be very justly expressed by the days of a tree, according to our notions. The rabbins have said that this refers to the tree of life, which endures five hundred years. - L.
They shall not labor in vain "My chosen shall not labor in vain" - I remove בחירי bechirai, my elect, from the end of the twenty-second to the beginning of the twenty-third verse, on the authority of the Septuagint, Syriac, and Vulgate, and a MS.; contrary to the division in the Masoretic text. - L. The Septuagint is beautiful: My chosen shall not labor in vain, neither shall they beget children for the curse; for the seed is blessed of the Lord, and their posterity with them."
Nor bring forth for trouble "Neither shall they generate a short-lived race" - לבהלה labbehalah, in festinationem, "what shall soon hasten away." Εις καταραν for a curse, Sept. They seem to have read לאלה lealah . - Grotius. But Psalm 78:33; both justifies and explains the word here: -
ימיהם בהבל ויכל yemeyhem bahebel vayechal בבהלה ושנותם babbehalah ushenotham
"And he consumed their days in vanity;
And their years in haste."
μετα σπουδης, say the Septuagint. Jerome on this place of Isaiah explains it to the same purpose: "εις ανυπαρξιαν, hoc est, ut esse desistant."
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Before they call, I will answer - I will give them all they crave for, and more than they can desire.
Before they call, I will answer - I will give them all they crave for, and more than they can desire.
The wolf and the lamb, etc. - The glorious salvation which Jesus Christ procures is for men, and for men only: fallen spirits must still abide under the curse: "He took not on him the nature of angels, but the seed of Abraham."
Shall feed together - For כאחד keechad, as one, an ancient MS. has יחדו yachdav, together; the usual word, to the same sense, but very different in the letters. The Septuagint, Syriac, and Vulgate seem to agree with the MSS. - L.
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