Friday, June 2nd, 2023
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible Barnes' Notes
These files are public domain.
These files are public domain.
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Isaiah 66". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ bnb/ isaiah-66.html. 1870.
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Isaiah 66". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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It is generally supposed that this chapter is a continuation of the subject of the foregoing (Lowth). The general design is to reprove the hypocritical portion of the nation, and to comfort the pious with the assurance of the favor of God, the accession of the Gentile world, and the destruction of the foes of the church. The Jews valued themselves much upon the pomp of their temple-worship and the splendor of their ritual; they supposed that that was to he perpetual; and they assumed great merit to themselves for the regular servives of their religion. Before the captivity in Babylon they were prone to fall into idolatry; afterward they were kept from it, and to the present time they have not been guilty of it - so effectual was that heavy judgment in correcting this national propensity. But after their captivity their national proneness to sin assumed another form. That love of form and strict ceremony; that dependence on mere rites and the external duties of religion; that heartless and pompous system of worship commenced, which ultimately terminated in Pharisaic pride, and which was scarcely less an object of abhorrence to God than gross idolatry. To that state of things the prophet probably looked forward; and his object in this chapter was to reprove that reliance on the mere forms of external worship, and the pride in their temple and its service which he saw would succeed the return from the exile in Babylon.
It is generally agreed that the reference here is to the state of things which would follow the return from Babylon. Lowth supposes that it refers to the time when Herod would be rebuilding the temple in the most magnificent manner, and when, notwithstanding the heavy judgment of God was hanging over their heads, the nation was formal in its worship, and proud and self-confident, as if it was the favorite of God. Vitringa supposes that it refers to the time of the introduction of the new economy, or the beginning of the times of the Messiah.
That it refers to times succeeding the captivity at Babylon, and is designed to be at once a prophetic description and a reproof of the sins which would prevail after their return, is apparent from the whole structure of the chapter, and particularly from the following considerations:
1. There is no one description, as in the former chapters, of the land as desolate, or the city of Jerusalem and the temple in ruins (see Isaiah 64:10-11).
2. There is no charge against them for being idolatrous, as there had been in the previous chapters (see especially Isaiah 65:3-4, Isaiah 65:11). The sin that is specified here is of a wholly different kind.
3. It is evidently addressed to them when they were either rebuilding the temple, or when they greatly prided themselves on its service (see Isaiah 66:1).
4. It is addressed to them when they were engaged in offering sacrifice with great formality, and with great reliance on the mere external services of religion; when sacrifice had degenerated into mere form, and when the spirit with which it was done was as abominable in the sight of God as the most odious of all crimes.
From these considerations, it seems to me that the chapter is designed to refer to a state of things that would succeed the return from the exile at Babylon, and be a general description of the spirit with which they would then engage in the worship of God. They would indeed rebuild the temple according to the promise; but they would manifest a spirit in regard to the temple which required the severe reproof of Yahweh. They would again offer sacrifice in the place where their fathers had done it; but though they would be effectually cured of their idolatrous tendencies, yet they would evince a spirit that was as hateful to God as the worst form of idolatry, or the most heinous crimes. A large portion, therefore, of the nation would still be the object of the divine abhorrence, and be subjected to punishment; but the truly pious would be preserved, and their number would be increased by the accession of the Gentile world.
As an additional consideration to show the correctness of this view of the time to which the chapter refers, we may remark, that a large part of the prophecies of Isaiah are employed in predicting the certain return from the exile, the re-establishment of religion in their own land, and the resumption of the worship of God there. It was natural, therefore, that the spirit of inspiration should glance at the character of the natron subsequent to the return, and that the prophet should give, in the conclusion of his book, a summary graphic description of what would occur in future times. This I take to be the design of the closing chapter of the prophecies of Isaiah. He states in general the character of the Jewish people after the return from the exile; condemns the sins with which they would then be chargeable; comforts the portion of the nation that would be disposed in sincerity to serve God; predicts the rapid and glorious increase of the church; declares that the enemies of God would be cut off; affirms that all the world would yet come at stated seasons to worship before God; and closes the whole book by saying that the people of God would go forth and see all their enemies slain. This general view may be more distinctly seen by the following analysis of the chapter:
I. Yahweh says that heaven was his throne, and the earth his footstool, and that no house which they could build for him would adequately express his glory; no external worship would suitably declare his majesty. He preferred the homage of an humble heart to the most magnificent external worship; the tribute of a sincere offering to the most costly outward devotion Isaiah 66:1-2.
II. He declares his sense of the evil of mere external worship, and threatens punishment to the hypocrites who should engage in this manner in his service Isaiah 66:3-4. In these verses it is implied that in the service of the temple after the return from the exile, there would be a spirit evinced in their public worship that would be as hateful to God as would lie murder or idolatry, or as would be the cutting off a dog’s neck or the sacrifice of swine; that is, that the spirit of hypocrisy, self-righteousness, and pride, would be supremely odious in his sight. They were not therefore to infer that because they would be restored from the exile, therefore their worship would be pure and acceptable to God. The fact would be that it would become so utterly abominable in his sight that he would cut them off and bring all their fears upon them; that is, he would severely punish them.
III. Yet even then there would be a portion of the people that would hear the word of the Lord, and to whom he would send comfort and deliverance. He therefore promises to his true church great extension, and especially the accession of the Gentiles Isaiah 66:5-14.
1. A part of the nation would cast out, and persecute the other, under pretence of promoting the glory of God and doing his will Isaiah 66:5. Yet Yahweh would appear for the joy of the persecuted portion, and the persecutors would be confounded.
2. A sound is heard as of great agitation in the city; a voice indicating great and important revolutions Isaiah 66:6. This voice is designed to produce consolation to his people; dismay to his foes.
3. A promise is given of the great and sudden enlargement of Zion - an increase when conversions would be as sudden as if a child were born without the ordinary delay and pain of parturition; as great as if a nation were born in a day Isaiah 66:7-9.
4. All that love Zion are called on to rejoice with her, for the Gentile nations would come like a flowing stream, and the church would be comforted, as when a mother comforteth her child Isaiah 66:10-14.
IV. God would punish his foes. He would devote idolaters to destructionIsaiah 66:15-17; Isaiah 66:15-17.
V. He would send the message of salvation to those who were in distant parts of the world Isaiah 66:19-21.
VI. At that time, the worship of God would everywhere be regularly and publicly celebrated. From one new moon to another: and from one Sabbath to another, all flesh would come and worship before God Isaiah 66:23.
VII. The friends of God would be permitted to see the final and interminable ruin of all the transgressors against the Most High Isaiah 66:24. Their destruction would be complete; their worm would not die, and their fire would not be quenched and the whole scene of the work of redemption would be wound up in the complete and eternal salvation of all the true people of God, and in the complete and eternal ruin of all his foes. With this solemn truth - a truth relating to the final retribution of mankind, the prophecies of Isaiah appropriately close. Where more properly could be the winding up of the series of visions in this wonderful book, than in a view of the complete destruction of the enemies of God; how more sublimely than by representing the whole redeemed church as going forth together to look upon their destruction, as victors go forth to look upon a mighty army of foes slain and unburied on the battlefield?
The heaven is my throne - (See the notes at Isaiah 57:15). Here he is represented as having his seat or throne there. He speaks as a king. heaven is the place where he holds his court; from where he dispenses his commands; and from where he surveys all his works (compare 2 Chronicles 6:18; Matthew 5:34). The idea here is, that as God dwelt in the vast and distant heavens, no house that could be built on earth could be magnificent enough to be his abode.
The earth is my footstool - A footstool is that which is placed under the feet when we sit. The idea here is, that God was so glorious that even the earth itself could be regarded only as his footstool. It is probable that the Saviour had this passage in his eye in his declaration in the sermon on the mount, ‘Swear not at all; neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool’ Matthew 5:34-35.
Where is the house that ye build unto me? - What house can you build that will be an appropriate dwelling for him who fills heaven and earth? The same idea, substantially, was expressed by Solomon when he dedicated the temple: ‘But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, the heaven, and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded!’ 1 Kings 8:27. Substantially the same thought is found in the address of Paul at Athens: ‘God, that made the world, and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands’ Acts 17:24.
And where is the place of my rest? - It has already been intimated (in the analysis) that this refers probably to the time subsequent to the captivity. Lowth supposes that it refers to the time of the rebuilding of the temple by Herod. So also Vitringa understands it, and supposes that it refers to the pride and self-confidence of those who then imagined that they were rearing a structure that was worthy of being a dwelling-place of Yahweh. Grotius supposes that it refers to the time of the Maccabees, and that it was designed to give consolation to the pious of those times when they were about to witness the profanation of the temple by Antiochus, and the cessation of the sacrifices for three years and a half. ‘God therefore shows,’ says he, ‘that there was no reason why they should be offended in this thing. The most acceptable temple to him was a pious mind; and from that the value of all sacrifices was to be estimated.’ Abarbanel supposes that it refers to the times of redemption.
His words are these: ‘I greatly wonder at the words of the learned interpreting this prophecy, when they say that the prophet in this accuses the people of his own time on account of sacrifices offered with impure hands, for lo! all these prophecies which the prophet utters in the end of his book have respect to future redemption.’ See Vitringa. That it refers to some future time when the temple should be rebuilt seems to me to be evident. But what precise period it refers to - whether to times not far succeeding the captivity, or to the times of the Maccabees, or to the time of the rebuilding of the temple by Herod, it is difficult to find any data by which we can determine. From the whole strain of the prophecy, and particularly from Isaiah 66:3-5, it seems probable that it refers to the time when the temple which Herod had reared was finishing; when the nation was full of pride, self-righteousness, and hypocrisy; and when all sacrifices were about to be superseded by the one great sacrifice which the Messiah was to make for the sins of the world. At that time, God says that the spirit which would be evinced by the nation would be abominable in his sight; and to offer sacrifice then, and with the spirit which they would manifest, would be as offensive as murder or the sacrifice of a dog (see the notes at Isaiah 66:3).
For all those things hath mine hand made - That is the heaven and the earth, and all that is in them. The sense is, ‘I have founded for myself a far more magnificent and appropriate temple than you can make; I have formed the heavens as my dwelling-place, and I need not a dwelling reared by the hand of man.’
And all those things have been - That is, have been made by me, or for me. The Septuagint renders it, ‘All those things are mine?’ Jerome renders it, ‘All those things were made;’ implying that God claimed to be the Creator of them all, and that, therefore, they all belonged to him.
But to this man will I look - That is, ‘I prefer a humble heart and a contrite spirit to the most magnificent earthly temple’ (see the notes at Isaiah 57:15).
That is poor - Or rather ‘humble.’ The word rendered ‘poor’ (עני ‛ânı̂y), denotes not one who has no property, but one who is down-trodden, crushed, afflicted, oppressed; often, as here, with the accessory idea of pious feeling Exodus 24:12; Psalms 10:2, Psalms 10:9. The Septuagint renders it, Ταπεινὸν Tapeinon - ‘Humble;’ not πτωχόν ptōchon (poor). The idea is, not that God looks with favor on a poor man merely because he is poor - which is not true, for his favors are not bestowed in view of external conditions in life - but that he regards with favor the man that is humble and subdued in spirit.
And of a contrite spirit - A spirit that is broken, crushed, or deeply affected by sin. It stands opposed to a spirit that is proud, haughty, self-confident, and self-righteous.
And that trembleth at my word - That fears me, or that reveres my commands.
He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man - Lowth and Noyes render this, ‘He that slayeth an ox, killeth a man.’ This is a literal translation of the Hebrew. Jerome renders it, ‘He who sacrifices an ox is as if (quasi) he slew a man.’ The Septuagint, in a very free translation - such as is common in their version of Isaiah - render it, ‘The wicked man who sacrifices a calf, is as he who kills a dog; and he who offers to me fine flour, it is as the blood of swine.’ Lowth supposes the sense to be, that the most flagitious crimes were united with hypocrisy, and that they who were guilty of the most extreme acts of wickedness at the same time affected great strictness in the performance of all the external duties of religion. An instance of this, he says, is referred to by Ezekiel, where he says, ‘When they had slain their children to their idols, then they came the same day into my sanctuary to profane it’ Ezekiel 23:39.
There can be no doubt that such offences were often committed by those who were very strict and zealous in their religious services (compare Isaiah 1:11-14, with Isaiah 66:21-23. But the generality of interpreters have supposed that a different sense was to be affixed to this passage. According to their views, the particles as if are to be supplied; and the sense is, not that the mere killing of an ox is as sinful in the sight of God as deliberate murder, but that he who did it in the circumstances, and with the spirit referred to, evinced a spirit as odious in his sight as though he had slain a man. So the Septuagint, Vulgate, Chaldee, Symmachus, and Theodotion, Junius, and Tremellius, Grotius, and Rosenmuller, understand it. There is probably an allusion to the fact that human victims were offered by the pagan; and the sense is, that the sacrifices here referred to were no more acceptable in the sight of God than they were.
The prophet here refers, probably, first, to the spirit with which this was done. Their sacrifices were offered with a temper of mind as offensive to God as if a man had been slain, and they had been guilty of murder. They were proud, vain, and hypocritical. ‘They had forgotten the true nature and design of sacrifice, and such worship could not but be an abhorrence in the sight of God. Secondly, It may also be implied here, that the period was coming when all sacrifices would be unacceptable to God. When the Messiah should have come; when he should have made by one offering a sufficent atonement for the sins of the whole world; then all bloody sacrifices would be needless, and would be offensive in the sight of God. The sacrifice of an ox would be no more acceptable than the sacrifice of a man; and all offerings with a view to propitiate the divine favor, or that implied that there was a deficiency in the merit of the one great atoning sacrifice, would be odious to God.
He that sacrificeth a lamb - Margin, ‘Kid’ The Hebrew word (שׂה s'eh) may refer to one of a flock, either of sheep or goats Genesis 22:7-8; Genesis 30:32. Where the species is to be distinguished, it is usually specified, as, e. g., Deuteronomy 14:4, כשׂבים שׂה עזים ושׂה ves'ēh ‛ı̂zzym s'ēh kı̂s'âbı̂ym (one of the sheep and one of the goats). Both were used in sacrifice.
As if he cut off a dog’s neck - That is, as if he had cut off a dog’s neck for sacrifice. To offer a dog in sacrifice would have been abominable in the view of a Jew. Even the price for which he was sold was not permitted to be brought into the house of God for a vow (Deuteronomy 23:18; compare 1 Samuel 17:43; 1 Samuel 24:14). The dog was held in veneration by many of the pagan, and was even offered in sacrifice; and it was, doubtless, partly in view of this fact, and especially of the fact that such veneration was shown for it in Egypt, that it was an object of such detestation among the Jews. Thus Juvenal, Sat. xiv. says:
Oppida tota canem venerantur, nemo Dianam.
‘Every city worships the dog; none worship Diana.’ Diodorus (B. i.) says, ‘Certain animals the Egyptians greatly venerate (σέβονται sebontai), not only when alive, but when they are dead, as cats, ichneumons, mice, and dogs.’ Herodotus says also of the Egyptians, ‘In some cities, when a cat dies all the inhabitants cut off their eyebrows; when a dog dies, they shave the whole body and the head.’ In Samothracia there was a cave in which dogs were sacrificed to Hecate. Plutarch says, that all the Greeks sacrificed the dog. The fact that dogs were offered in sacrifice by the pagan is abundantly proved by Bochart (Hieroz. i. 2. 56). No kind of sacrifice could have been regarded with higher detestation by a pious Jew. But God here says, that the spirit with which they sacrificed a goat or a lamb was as hateful in his sight as would be the sacrifice of a dog: or that the time would come when, the great sacrifice for sin having been made, and the necessity for all other sacrifice having ceased, the offering of a lamb or a goat for the expiation of sin would be as offensive to him as would be the sacrifice of a dog.
He that offereth an oblation - On the word rendered here ‘oblation’ (מנחה minchāh). See the notes at Isaiah 1:13.
As if he offered swine’s blood - The sacrifice of a hog was an abomination in the sight of the Hebrews (see the notes at Isaiah 65:4). Yet here it is said that the offering of the מנחה minchāh, in the spirit in which they would do it, was as offensive to God as would be the pouring out of the blood of the swine on the altar, Nothing could more emphatically express the detestation of God for the spirit with which they would make their offerings, or the fact that the time would come when all such modes of worship would be offensive in his sight.
He that burneth incense - See the word ‘incense’ explained in the notes at Isaiah 1:13. The margin here is, ‘Maketh a memorial of.’ Such is the usual meaning of the word used here (זכר zâkar), meaning to remember, and in Hiphil to cause to remember, or to make a memorial. Such is its meaning here. incense was burned as a memorial or a remembrance-offering; that is, to keep up the remembrance of God on the earth by public worship (see the notes at Isaiah 62:6).
As if he blessed an idol - The spirit with which incense would be offered would be as offensive as idolatry. The sentiment in all this is, that the most regular and formal acts of worship where the heart is lacking, may be as offensive to God as the worst forms of crime, or the most gross and debasing idolatry. Such a spirit often characterized the Jewish people, and eminently prevailed at the time when the temple of Herod was nearly completed, and when the Saviour was about to appear.
I also will choose their delusions - Margin, ‘Devices.’ The Hebrew word rendered here ‘delusions’ and ‘devices’ (תעלוּלים ta‛ălûlı̂ym) properly denotes petulance, sauciness; and then vexation, adverse destiny, from עלל ‛âlal, to do, to accomplish, to do evil, to maltreat. It is not used in the sense of delusions, or devices; and evidently here means the same as calamity or punishment. Compare the Hebrew in Lamentations 1:22. Lowth and Noyes render it, Calamities; though Jerome and the Septuagint understand it in the sense of illusions or delusions; the former rendering it, ‘Illusiones, and the latter ἐμπαίγματα empaigmata - ‘delusions.’ The parallelism requires us to understand it of calamity, or something answering to ‘fear,’ or that which was dreaded; and the sense undoubtedly is, that God would choose out for them the kind of punishment which would be expressive of his sense of the evil of their conduct.
And will bring their fears upon them - That is, the punishment which they have so much dreaded, or which they had so much reason to apprehend.
Because when I called - (See the notes at Isaiah 65:12).
But they did evil before mine eyes - (See the notes at Isaiah 65:3).
Hear the word of the Lord - This is an address to the pious and persecuted portion of the nation. It is designed for their consolation, and contains the assurance that Yahweh would appear in their behalf, and that they should be under his protecting care though they were cast out by their brethren. To whom this refers has been a question with expositors, and it is perhaps not possible to determine with certainty. Rosenmuller supposes that it refers to the pious whom the ‘Jews and Benjaminites repelled from the worship of the temple.’ Grotius supposes that it refers to those ‘who favored Onias;’ that is, in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes. Vitringa supposes that the address is to the apostles, disciples, and followers of the Lord Jesus; and that it refers to the persecution which would be excited against them by the Jewish people. This seems to me to be the most probable opinion:
1. Because the whole structure of the chapter (see the analysis) seems to refer to the period when the Messiah should appear.
2. Because the state of things described in this verse exactly accords with what occurred on the introduction of Christianity. They who embraced the Messiah were excommunicated and persecuted; and they who did it believed, or professed to believe, that they were doing it for the glory of God.
3. The promise that Yahweh would appear for their joy, and for the confusion of their foes, is one that had a clear fulfillment in his interposition in behalf of the persecuted church.
Your brethren that hated you - No hatred of others was ever more bitter than was that evinced by the Jews for those of their nation who embraced Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah. If this refers to his time, then the language is plain. But to whatever time it refers, it describes a state of things where the pious part of the nation was persecuted and opposed by those who were their kinsmen according to the flesh.
That cast you out - The word used here is one that is commonly employed to denote excommunication or exclusion from the privileges connected with the public worship of God. It is language which will accurately describe the treatment which the apostles and the early diciples of the Redeemer received at the hand of the Jewish people (see John 16:2, and the Acts of the Apostles generally).
For my name’s sake - This language closely resembles that which the Saviour used respecting his own disciples and the persecutions to which they would be exposed: ‘But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me’ (John 15:21; compare Matthew 10:22; Matthew 24:9). I have no doubt that this refers to that period, and to those scenes.
Said, Let the Lord be glorified - That is, they profess to do it to honor God; or because they suppose that he requires it. Or it means, that even while they were engaged in this cruel persecution, and these acts of excommunicating their brethren, they professed to be serving God, and manifested great zeal in his cause. This has commonly been the case with persecutors. The most malignant and cruel persecutions of the friends of God have been originated under the pretext of great zeal in his service, and with a professed desire to honor his name. So it was with the Jews when they crucified the Lord Jesus. So it is expressly said it would be when his disciples would be excommunicated and put to death John 16:2. So it was in fact in the persecutions excited by the Jews against the apostles and early Christians (see Acts 6:13-14; Acts 21:28-31). So it was in all the persecutions of the Waldenses by the Papists; in all the horrors of the Inquisition; in all the crimes of the Duke of Alva. So it was in the bloody reign of Mary; and so it has ever been in all ages and in all countries where Christians have been persecuted. The people of God have suffered most from those who have been conscientious persecutors; and the most malignant foes of the church have been found in the church, persecuting true Christians under great pretence of zeal for the purity of religion. It is no evidence of piety that a man is full of conscientious zeal against those whom he chooses to regard as heretics. And it should always be regarded as proof of a bad heart, and a bad cause, when a man endeavors to inflict pain and disgrace on others, on account of their religious opinions, under pretence of great regard for the honor of God.
But he shall appear to your joy - The sense is, that God would manifest himself to his people as their vindicator, and would ultimately rescue them from their persecuting foes. If this is applied to Christians, it means that the cause in which they were engaged would triumph. This has been the case in all persecutions. The effect has always been the permanent triumph and estalishment of the cause that was persecuted.
And they shall be ashamed - How true this has been of the Jews that persecuted the early Christians! How entirely were they confounded and overwhelmed! God established permanently the persecuted; he scattered the persecutors to the ends of the earth!
A voice of noise from the city - That is, from the city of Jerusalem. The prophet sees in a vision a tumult in the city. He hears a voice that issues from the temple. His manner and language are rapid and hurried - such as a man would evince who should suddenly see a vast tumultuous assemblage, and hear a confused sound of many voices. There is also a remarkable abruptness in the whole description here. The preceding verse was calm and solemn. It was full of affectionate assurance of the divine favor to those whom the prophet saw to be persecuted. Here the scene suddenly changes. The vision passes to the agitating events which were occurring in the city and the temple, and to the great and sudden change which would be produced in the condition of the church of God. But to whom or what this refers has been a subject of considerable difference of opinion. Grotius understands it of the sound of triumph of Judas Maccabeus, and of his soldiers, rejoicing that the city was forsaken by Antiochus, and by the party of the Jews who adhered to him.
Rosenmuller understands it of the voice of God, who is seen by the prophet taking vengeance on his foes. There can be no doubt that the prophet, in vision, sees Yahweh taking recompence on his enemies - for that is expressly specified. Still it is not easy to determine the exact time referred to, or the exact scene which passes before the mind of the prophet. To me it seems probable that it is a scene that immediately preceded the rapid extension of the gospel, and the great and sudden increase of the church by the accession of the pagan world (see the following verses); and I would suggest, whether it is not a vision of the deeply affecting and agitating scenes when the temple and city were about to be destroyed by the Romans; when the voice of Yahweh would be heard in the city and at the temple, declaring the punishment which he would bring on those who had cast out and rejected the followers of the Messiah Isaiah 66:5; and when, as a result of this, the news of Salvation was to be rapidly spread throughout the pagan world.
This is the opinion, also, of Vitringa. The phrase rendered here ‘a voice of noise’ (שׁאון קול qôl shâ'ôn), means properly the voice of a tumultuous assemblage; the voice of a multitude. The word ‘noise’ (שׁאון shâ'ôn) is applied to a noise or roaring, as of waters Psalms 65:8; or of a crowd or multitude of people Isaiah 5:14; Isaiah 42:4; Isaiah 24:8; and of war Amos 2:2; Hosea 10:14. Here it seems probable that it refers to the confused clamor of war, the battle cry raised by soldiers attacking an army or a city; and the scene described is probably that when the Roman soldiers burst into the city, scaled the walls, and poured desolation through the capital.
A voice from the temple - That is, either the tumultous sound of war already having reached the temple; or the voice of Yahweh speaking from the temple, and commanding destruction on his foes. Vitringa supposes that it may mean the voice of Yahweh breaking forth from the temple, and commanding his foes to be slain. But to whichever it refers, it doubtless means that the sound of the tumult was not only around the city, but in it; not merely in the distant parts, but in the very midst, and even at the temple.
A voice of the Lord that rendereth recompence - Here we may observe:
1. That it is recompence taken on those who had cast out their brethren Isaiah 66:5.
2. It is vengeance taken within the city, and on the internal, not the external enemies.
3. It is vengeance taken in the midst of this tumult.
All this is a striking description of the scene when the city and temple were taken by the Roman armies. It was the vengeance taken on those who had cast out their brethren; it was the vengeance which was to precede the glorious triumph of truth and of the cause of the true religion.
Before she travailed, she brought forth - That is, Zion. The idea here is, that there would be a great and sudden increase of her numbers. Zion is here represented, as it often is, as a female (see Isaiah 1:8), and as the mother of spiritual children (compare Isaiah 54:1; Isaiah 49:20-21). The particular idea here is, that the increase would be sudden - as if a child were born without the usual delay and pain of parturition. If the interpretation given of Isaiah 66:6 be correct, then this refers probably to the sudden increase of the church when the Messiah came, and to the great revivals of religion which attended the first preaching of the gospel. Three thousand were converted on a single day Acts 2:0, and the gospel was speedily propagated almost all over the known world. Vitringa supposes that it refers to the sudden conversion of the Gentiles, and their accession to the church.
She was delivered of a man child - Jerome understands this of the Messiah. who was descended from the Jewish church. Grotius supposes that the whole verse refers to Judas Maccabeus, and to the liberation of Judea under him before anyone could have hoped for it! Calvin (Commentary in loc.) supposes that the word male here, or manchild, denotes the manly or generous nature of those who should be converted to the church; that they would be vigorous and active, not effeminate and delicate (generosam prolem, non mollem aut effeminatam). Vitringa refers it to the character and rank of those who should be converted, and applies it particularly to Constantine, and to the illustrious philosophers, orators, and senators, who were early brought under the influence of the gospel. The Hebrew word probably denotes a male, or a man-child, and it seems to me that it is applied here to denote the character of the early converts to the Christian faith. They would not be feeble and effeminate; but vigorous, active, energetic. It may, perhaps, also be suggested, that, among the Orientals, the birth of a son was deemed of much more importance, and was regarded as much more a subject of congratulation than the birth of a female. If an allusion be had to that fact, then the idea is, that the increase of the church would be such as would be altogether a subject of exultation and joy.
Who hath heard such a thing? - Of a birth so sudden. Usually in childbirth there are the pains of protracted parturition. The earth brings forth its productions gradually and slowly. Nations rise by degrees, and are long in coming to maturity. But here is such an event as if the earth should in a day be covered with a luxurious vegetation, or as if a nation should spring at once into being. The increase in the church would be as great and wonderful as if these changes were to occur in a moment.
Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? - That is, to produce its grass, and flowers, and fruit, and trees. The idea is, that it usually requires much longer time for it to mature its productions. The germ does not start forth at once; the flower, the fruit, the yellow harvest, and the lofty tree are not produced in a moment. Months and years are required before the earth would be covered with its luxuriant and beautiful productions But here would be an event as remarkable as if the earth should bring forth its productions in a single day.
Or shall a nation be born at once? - Such an event never has occurred. A nation is brought into existence by degrees. Its institutions are matured gradually, and usually by the long process of years. But here is an event as remarkable as if a whole nation should be born at once, and stand before the world, mature in its laws, its civil institutions, and in all that constitutes greatness. In looking for the fulfillment of this, we naturally turn the attention to the rapid progress of the gospel in the times of the apostles, when events occurred as sudden and as remarkable as if the earth, after the desolation of winter or of a drought, should be covered with rich luxuriance in a day, or as if a whole nation should start into existence, mature in all its institutions, in a moment. But there is no reason for limiting it to that time. Similar sudden changes are to be expected still on the earth; and I see no reason why this should not be applied to the spread of the gospel in pagan lands, and why we should not yet look for the rapid propagation of Christianity in a manner as surprising and wonderful as would be such an instantaneous change in the appearance of the earth, or such a sudden birth of a kingdom.
Shall I bring to the birth? - The sense of this verse is plain. It is, that God would certainly accomplish what he had here predicted, and for which he had made ample arrangements and preparations. He would not commence the work, and then abandon it. The figure which is used here is obvious; but one which does not render very ample illustration proper. Jarchi has well expressed it: ‘Num ego adducerem uxorem meam ad sellam partus, sc. ad partitudinem, et non aperirem uterum ejus, ut foetum suum in lucem produceret? Quasi diceret; an ego incipiam rem nec possim eam perficere?’
Shall I cause to bring forth? - Lowth and Noyes render this, ‘Shall I, who begat, restrain the birth?’ This accurately expresses the idea. The meaning of the whole is, that God designed the great and sudden increase of his church; that the plan was long laid; and that, having done this, he would not abandon it, but would certainly effect his designs.
Rejoice ye with Jerusalem - The idea which is presented in this verse is, that it is the duty of all who love Zion to sympathize in her joys. It is one evidence of piety to rejoice in her joy; and they who have no true joy when God pours down his Spirit, and, in a revival of religion, produces changes as sudden and transforming as if the earth were suddenly to pass from the desolation of winter to the verdure and bloom of summer; or when the gospel makes rapid advances in the pagan world, have no true evidence that they love God or his cause. Such scenes awaken deep interest in the bosoms of angels, and in the bosom of God the Saviour; and they who love that God and Saviour will rejoice in such scenes, and will mingle their joys and thanksgivings with the joys and thanksgivings of those who are thus converted and saved.
All ye that mourn for her - That sympathize in her sorrows, and that mourn over her desolations.
That ye may suck - The same figure occurs in Isaiah 60:16; and substantidally in Isaiah 49:23. See the note at those places.
That ye may milk out - The image is an obvious one. It means that they who sympathized with Zion would be nourished by the same truth, and comforted with the same sources of consolation.
And be delighted with the abundance of her glory - Margin, ‘Brightness.’ Lowth renders this, ‘From her abundant stores.’ Noyes, ‘From the fullness of her glory.’ Jerome (the Vulgate), ‘And that you may abound with delights from every kind of her glory.’ The Septuagint, ‘That sucking ye may be nourished from the commencement’ (Thompson); ‘or the entrance of her glory’ (ἀπὸ εἰσόδου δόξης αὐτῆς apo eisodou doxēs autēs). This variety of interpretation has arisen from the uncertain meaning of the word זיז zı̂yz, rendered ‘abundance.’ Gesenius supposes that it is derived from זוּז zûz, meaning:
1. To move;
2. To glance, to sparkle, to radiate, from the idea of rapid motion; hence, to flow out like rays, to spout like milk; and hence, the noun זיז zı̂yz, means a breast.
This derivation may be regarded as somewhat fanciful; but it will show why the word ‘brightness’ was inserted in the margin, since one of the usual significations of the verb relates to brightness, or to sparkling rays. Aquila renders it, Ἀπὸ παντοδαπίας Apo pantodapias - ‘From every kind of abundance.’ Symmachus, Ἀπὸ πλήθους Apo plēthou - ‘From the multitude.’ The word probably refers to the abundance of the consolations which Zion possessed. Lowth proposes to change the text; but without any authority. The Chaldee renders it, ‘That ye may drink of the wine of her glory;’ where they probably read יין yayin (“wine”), instead of the present reading.
Of her glory - The abundant favors or blessings conferred on Zion. The glory that should be manifested to her would be the knowledge of divine truth, and the provisions made for the salvation of people.
For thus saith the Lord - This verse contains a promise of the conversion of the Gentiles, and the fact that what constituted their glory would be brought and consecrated to the church of God.
I will extend - The word rendered, I will extend ( נטה nâṭâh) means properly to stretch out, as the hand or a measure; then to spread out or expand, as a tent is spread out, to which it is often applied Genesis 12:8; Genesis 26:5; or to the heavens spread out over our heads like a tent or a curtain Isaiah 40:22. Here it may mean either that peace would be spread out over the country like the Nile or Euphrates spread out over a vast region in an inundation; or it may mean, as Gesenius supposes, ‘I will turn peace upon her like a river; that is, as a stream is turned in its course.’ To me it seems that the former is the correct interpretation; and that the idea is, that God would bring prosperity upon Zion like a broad majestic river overflowing all its banks, and producing abundant fertility.
Peace - A general word denoting prosperity of all kinds - a favorite word with Isaiah to describe the future happiness of the church of God (see Isaiah 9:6-7; Isaiah 26:12; Isaiah 32:17; Isaiah 45:7; Isaiah 48:18; Isaiah 52:7; Isaiah 54:13; Isaiah 55:12; Isaiah 57:19).
Like a river - That is, says Lowth like the Euphrates. So the Chaldee interprets it. But there is no evidence that the prophet refers particularly to the Euphrates. The image is that suggested above - of a river that flows full, and spreads over the banks - at once an image of sublimity, and a striking emblem of great prosperity. This same image occurs in Isaiah 48:18. See the note at that place.
And the glory of the Gentiles - (See the notes at Isaiah 60:5, Isaiah 60:11).
Like a flowing stream - Like the Nile, says Vitringa. But the word נחל nachal is not commonly applied to a river like the Nile; but to a torrent, a brook, a rivulet - either as flowing from a perennial fountain, or more commonly a stream running in a valley that is swelled often by rain, or by the melting of snows in the mountain (see Reland’s Palestine, chapter xlv.) Such is the idea here. The peace or prosperity of Zion would be like such a swollen stream - a stream overflowing (שׁוטף shôṭēph) its banks.
Then shall ye suck - Isaiah 66:11.
Ye shall be borne upon her sides - See this phrase explained in the notes at Isaiah 60:4.
And be dandled upon her knees - As a child is by its nurse or mother. The idea is, that the tenderest care would be exercised for the church; the same care which an affectionate mother evinces for her children. The insertion of the word ‘her’ here by our translators weakens the sense. The meaning is, not that they should be borne upon the sides and dandled upon the knees of Zion or of the church; but that God would manifest to them the feelings of a parent, and treat them with the tenderness which a mother evinces for her children. As a mother nurses her children at her side (compare the notes at Isaiah 60:4), so would God tenderly provide for the church; as she affectionately dandles her children on her knees, so tenderly and affectionately would he regard Zion.
As one whom his mother comforteth - See the notes at Isaiah 49:15, where the same image occurs.
And when ye see this - This great accession to the church from the Gentile world.
Your bones shall flourish like an herb - This is an image which is often employed in the Scriptures. When the vigor of the body fails, or when it is much afflicted, the bones are said to be feeble or weakened, or to be dried Psalms 6:2; Psalms 51:8; Psalms 22:14, Psalms 22:17; Psalms 38:3; Lamentations 1:13; Proverbs 14:30; Proverbs 17:22. like manner, prosperity, health, vigor, are denoted by making the bones fat (see the notes at Isaiah 58:11; Proverbs 15:20), or by imparting health, marrow, or strength to them Proverbs 3:8; Proverbs 16:24. The sense here is, that their vigor would be greatly increased.
The hand of the Lord shall be known - That is, it shall be seen that he is powerful to defend his people, and to punish their enemies.
Compare the notes at Isaiah 29:6; Isaiah 30:30. This is a general promise that God would defend his church, and destroy his foes. To what this particularly applies, it may not be possible to determine, and instead of attempting that, I am disposed to regard it as a promise of a general nature, that God, in those future times, would destroy his foes, and would thus extend protection to his people. So far as the language is concerned, it may be applied either to the destruction of Jerusalem, to any mighty overthrow of his enemies, or to the day of judgment. The single truth is, that all his enemies would be destroyed as if Yahweh should come amidst flames of fire. That truth is enough for his church to know; that truth should be sufficient to fill a wicked world with alarm.
And with his chariots like a whirlwind - The principal idea here is, that he would come with immense rapidity, like a chariot that was borne forward as on the whirlwind, to destroy his foes. God is often represented as coming in a chariot - a chariot of the clouds, or of a whirlwind. Psalms 104:3 :
Who maketh the clouds his chariot,
Who walketh upon the wings of the wind.
Compare Psalms 18:10; see the note at Isaiah 19:1. See also Jeremiah 4:13 :
Behold, he shall come up as clouds,
And his chariots shall be as a whirlwind.
Chariots were commonly made with two wheels, though sometimes they had four wheels, to which two horses, fiery and impetuous, were attached; and the rapid movement, the swift revolving wheels, and the dust which they raised, had no slight resemblance to a whirlwind (compare the notes at Isaiah 21:7, Isaiah 21:9). They usually had strong and sharp iron scythes affixed to the extremities of their axles, and were driven into the midst of the army of an enemy, cutting down all before them. Warriors sometimes fought standing on them, or leaping from them on the enemy. The chariots in the army of Cyrus are said to have been capacious enough to permit twenty men to fight from them.
To render his anger with fury - Lowth renders this, ‘To breathe forth his anger.’ Jerome translates it, Reddere, that is, to render. The Septuagint, Ἀποδοῦναι Apodounai, to give, or to render. Lowth proposes, instead of the present text, as pointed by the Masorites, להשׁיב lehâshı̂yb, to read it להשׁיב lehashı̂yb, as if it were derived from נשׁב nâshab. But there is no necessity of a change. The idea is, that God would recompense his fury; or would cause his hand to turn upon them in fury.
With fury - Lowth renders this, ‘In a burning heat.’ The word used (חמה chēmâh) properly means “heat,” then anger, wrath; and the Hebrew here might be properly rendered, ‘heat of his anger;’ that is, glowing or burning wrath, wrath that consumes like fire.
With flames of fire - His rebuke shall consume like fiery flames; or it shall be manifested amidst such flame.
For by fire and by his sword - The sword is an instrument by which punishment is executed (see the notes at Isaiah 34:5; compare Romans 13:4).
Will he plead with all flesh - Or rather, he will judge (נשׁפט nı̂shephaṭ), that is, he will execute his purposes of vengeance on all the human race. Of course, only that part is intended who ought to be subject to punishment; that is, all his foes.
And the slain of the Lord shall be many - The number of those who shall be consigned to woe shall be immense - though in the winding up of the great drama at the close of the world, there is reason to hopethat a large proportion of the race, taken as a whole, will be saved. Of past generations, indeed, there is no just ground of such hope; of the present generation there is no such prospect. But brighter and happier times are to come. The true religion is to spread over all the world, and for a long period is to prevail; and the hope is, that during that long period the multitude of true converts will be so great as to leave the whole number who are lost, compared with those who are saved, much less than is commonly supposed. Still the aggregate of those who are lost, ‘the slain of the Lord,’ will be vast. This description I regard as having reference to the coming of the Lord to judgment (compare 2 Thessalonians 1:8); or if it refer to any other manifestation of Yahweh for judgment, like the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, it has a strong resemblance to the final judgment; and, like the description of that by the Saviour Matthew 24:0, the language is such as naturally to suggest, and to be applicable to, the final judgment of mankind.
They that sanctify themselves - That is, who attempt to purify themselves by idolatrous rites, by ablutions, and lustrations. The design here is, to describe those who will be exposed to the wrath of God when he shall come to execute vengeance.
And purify themselves in the gardens - (See the notes at Isaiah 65:3).
Behind one tree in the midst - This passage has not a little exercised the ingenuity of commentators. It is quite evident that our translators were not able to satisfy themselves with regard to its meaning. In the margin they have rendered it, ‘one after another,’ supposing that it may mean that the idolaters engaged in their sacrifices in a solemn procession, walking one after another around their groves, their shrines, or their altars. In the translation in the text, they seem to have supposed that the religious rites referred to were celebrated behind one particular selected tree in the garden. Lowth renders it, ‘After the rites of Achad.’ Jerome renders it, In hortis post januam intrinsecus - ‘In the gardens they sanctify themselves behind the gate within.’ The Septuagint, ‘Who consecrate and purify themselves (εἰς τοὺς κήπους, καὶ ἐν τοῖς προθύροις ἕσθοντες, κ.τ.λ. eis tous kēpous, kai en tois prothurois hesthontes, etc.) for the gardens, and they who, in the outer courts, eat swine’s flesh,’ etc. The Chaldee renders the phrase סיעא בחר סיעא siy‛ā' bāchar siy‛ā' - ‘Multitude after multitude.’ The vexed Hebrew phrase used here, אחד אחר 'achar 'achad, it is very difficult to explain. The word אחר 'achar means properly after; the after part; the extremity; behind - in the sense of following after, or going after anyone. The word אחד 'achad, means properly one; someone; anyone. Gesenius (Commentary at the place) says that the phrase may be used in one of the three following senses:
1. In the sense of one after another. So Sym. and Theo. render it - ὀπίσω ἀλλήλων opisō allēlōn. Luther renders it, Einer hier, der andere da - ‘one here, another there.’
2. The word אחד 'achad, may be understood as the name of a god who was worshipped in Syria, by the name of Adad. This god is that described by Macrobius, Sat., i. 23: ‘Understand what the Assyrians think about the power of the sun. For to the God whom they worship as Supreme they give the name Adad, and the signification of this name is One.’ That the passage before us refers to this divinity is the opinion of Lowth, Grotius, Bochart, Vitringa, Dathe, and others. ‘The image of Adad,’ Macrobius adds, ‘was designated by inclined rays, by which it was shown that the power of heaven was in the rays of the sun which were sent down to the earth.’ The same god is referred to by Pliny (Hist. Nat. xxxvii. 71), where he mentions three gems which received their names from three parts of the body, and were called ‘The veins of Adad, the eye of Adad, the finger of Adad;’ and he adds, ‘This god was worshipped by the Syrians.’ There can be no doubt that such a god was worshipped; but it is by no means certain that this idol is here referred to. It is not improbable, Vitringa remarks, that the name Adad should be written for Achadh, for the ease of pronunciation - as a slight change in letters was common for the purpose of euphony. But it is still not quite clear that this refers to any particular idol.
3. The third opinion is that of Gesenius and accords substantially with that which our translators have expressed it the text. According to that, it should be rendered ‘Those who sanctify and purify themselves in the (idol) groves after one in the midst;’ that is, following and imitating the one priest who directed the sacred ceremonies. It may mean that a solemn procession was formed in the midst of the grove, which was led on by the priest, whom all followed; or it may mean that they imitated him in the sacred rites. It seems tome probable that this refers to some sacred procession in honor of an idol, where the idol or the altar was encompassed by the worshippers, and where they were led on by the officiating priest. Such processions we know were common in pagan worship.
In the midst - In the midst of the sacred grove; that is, in the darkest and obscurest recess. Groves were selected for such worship on account of the sacred awe which it was supposed their dark shades would produce and cherish. For the same reason, therefore, the darkest retreat - the very middle of the grove - would be selected as the place where their religious ceremonies would be performed. I see no evidence that there is any allusion to any tree here, as our translators seem to have supposed; still less, that there was, as Burder supposes, any allusion to the tree of life in the midst of the garden of Eden, and their attempts to cultivate and preserve the memory of it; but there is reason to believe that their religious rites would be performed in the center, or most shady part of the grove.
Eating swine’s flesh - That is, in connection with their public worship (see the notes at Isaiah 65:4).
And the abomination - The thing which is held as abominable or detestable in the law of God. Thus the creeping thing and the reptile were regarded as abominations Leviticus 11:41-42. They were not to be eaten; still less were they to be offered in sacrifice (compare Exodus 8:26; Deuteronomy 20:16; Deuteronomy 29:17; see the notes at Isaiah 65:3).
And the mouse - The Hebrew word used here means the dormouse - a small field-mouse. Jerome understands it as meaning the glis, a small mouse that was regarded as a great delicacy by the Romans. They were carefully kept and fattened for food (see Varro, De Rust., iii. 15). Bochart (Hieroz., i. 3, 34) supposes that the name used here is of Chaldaic origin, and that it denotes a field-mouse. Mice abounded in the East, and were often exceedingly destructive in Syria (see Bochart; compare 1 Samuel 5:4). Strabo mentions that so vast a multitude of mice sometimes invaded Spain as to produce a pestilence; and in some parts of Italy, the number of field-mice was so great that the inhabitants were forced to abandon the country. It was partly on account of its destructive character that it was held in abomination by the Hebrews. Yet it would seem that it was eaten by idolaters; and was, perhaps, used either in their sacrifices or in their incantations (see the notes at Isaiah 65:4). Vitringa supposes that the description in this verse is applicable to the time of Herod, and that it refers to the number of pagan customs and institutions which were introduced under his auspices. But this is by no means certain. It may be possible that it is a general description of idolatry, and of idolaters as the enemies of God, and that the idea is, that God would come with vengeance to cut off all his foes.
For I know their works - The word ‘know,’ says Lowth, is here evidently left out of the Hebrew text, leaving the sense quite imperfect. It is found in the Syriac; the Chaldee evidently had that word in the copy of the Hebrew which was used; and the Aldine and Complutensian editions of the Septuagint have the word. Its insertion is necessary in order to complete the sense; though the proof is not clear that the word was ever in the Hebrew text. The sense is, that though their abominable rites were celebrated in the deepest recesses of the groves, yet they were not concealed from God.
That I will gather all nations and tongues - They who speak all languages (compare Revelation 7:9; Revelation 10:11; Revelation 11:9). The sense is, that the period would come when Yahweh would collect all nations to witness the execution of his vengeance on his foes.
And see my glory - That is, the manifestation of my perfections in the great events referred to here - the destruction of his enemies, and the deliverance of his people. To what particular period this refers has been a point on which expositors are by no means agreed. Grotius says it means, that such shall be the glory of the Jewish people that all nations shall desire to come and make a covenant with them. The Jewish interpreters, and among them Abarbanel (see Vitringa), suppose that it refers to a hostile and warlike assembling of all nations in the time of the Messiah, who, say they, shall attack Jerusalem with the Messiah in it, and shall be defeated. They mention particularly that the Turks and Christians shall make war on Jerusalem and on the true Messiah, but that they shall be overthrown. Vitringa supposes that it refers to the assembling of the nations when the gospel should be at first proclaimed, and when they should be called into the kingdom of God. Many of the fathers referred it to the final judgment. It is difficult to determine, amidst this variety of opinion, what is the true meaning. Opinions are easily given, and conjectures are easily made; and the opinions referred to above are entitled to little more than the appellation of conjecture. It seems to me, that there is involved here the idea of the judgment or punishment on the enemies of God, and at about the same time a collecting of the nations not only to witness the punishment, but also to become participants of his favor. In some future time, Yahweh would manifest himself as the punisher of his enemies, and all the nations also would be permitted to behold his glory, as if they were assembled together.
And I will set a sign among them - (See the notes at Isaiah 11:12; Isaiah 18:3). On the meaning of the word ‘sign’ (אות 'ôth), see the notes at Isaiah 7:11. What is its meaning here is to be determined by the connection. That would seem to me to require some such interpretation as this: That when God should come Isaiah 66:17-18 to take vengeance on his foes, and to manifest his glory, he would establish some mark or memorial; would erect some standard, or give some signal, by which his true friends would escape, and that he would send them to distant nations to proclaim his truth and gather together those who had not seen his glory. What that sign should be, he does not here say. Whether a standard, a secret communication, or some intimation beforehand, by which they should know the approaching danger and make their escape, is not declared. It is by no means easy to determine with certainty on this passage; and it certainly becomes no one to speak dogmatically or very confidently.
But it seems to me that the whole passage may have been intended, by the Holy Spirit, to refer to the propagation of the gospel by the apostles. The heavy judgments referred to may have been the impending calamities over Jerusalem. The glory of God referred to, may have been the signal manifestation of his perfections at that period in the approaching destruction of the city, and in the wonders that attended the coming of the Messiah. The gathering of the nations Isaiah 66:18 may possibly refer to the collecting together of numerous people from all parts of the earth about that time; that is, either the assembled people at the time of the Saviour’s death Acts 2:8, Acts 2:11, or the gathering of the armies of the Romans - a commingled multitude from all nations - to inflict punishment on the Jewish nation, and to behold the manifestation of the divine justice in the destruction of the guilty Jewish capital.
The ‘sign’ here referred to, may denote the intimations which the Redeemer gave to his disciples to discern these approaching calamities, and to secure their safety by flight when they should be about to appear Matthew 24:15-18. By these warnings and previous intimations they were to be preserved. The sign was ‘among them,’ that is, in the very midst of the nation; and the object of the intimation was, to secure their safety, and the speedy propagation of the true religion among all nations. Deeply sensible that there is great danger of erring here, and that the above view may be viewed as mere conjecture, I cannot, however, help regarding it as the true exposition. If there is error in it, it may be pardoned, for it will probably be felt by most readers of these notes that there has not been a too frequent reference in the interpretation proposed to the times of the Christian dispensation.
And I will send those that escape of them - According to the interpretation suggested above, this refers to the portion of the Jewish nation that should escape from the tokens of the divine displeasure; that is, to the apostles and the early disciples of the Redeemer. The great mass of the nation would be abandoned and devoted to destruction. But a remnant would be saved (compare Isaiah 1:9; Isaiah 11:11, Isaiah 11:16). Of that remnant, God would send a portion to make his name known to those who had not heard it, and they would lead distant nations to the knowledge of his truth. The whole passage is so accurately descriptive of what occurred in the times when the gospel was first preached to the pagan world, that there can be little danger of error in referring it to those times. Compare Vitringa on the passage for a more full view of the reasons of this interpretation. The names of the places which follow are designed to specify the principal places where the message would be sent, and stand here as representatives of the whole pagan world.
To Tarshish - (See the notes at Isaiah 2:16; Isaiah 23:1; Isaiah 60:19). Tarshish was one of the most distant seaports known to the Hebrews; and whether it be regarded as situated in Spain, or in the East Indies, or south of Abyssinia (see the notes above) it equally denotes a distant place, and the passage means that the message would be borne to the most remote regions.
Pul - This is supposed to denote some region in Africa. Jerome renders it, ‘Africa.’ The Septuagint, Φοὺδ Foud - ‘Phud.’ Bochart, Phaleg. iv. 26, supposes that it means Philae, a large island in the Nile, between Egypt and Ethiopia; called by the Egyptians Pilak, i e., the border, or far country (see Champollion, l’Egypte, i. 158). There are still on that island remains of some very noble and extensive temples built by the ancient Egyptians.
And Lud - Jerome renders this, ‘Lydia.’ The Septuagint ‘Lud.’ There was a Lydia in Asia Minor - the kingdom of the celebrated Croesus; but it is generally supposed that this place was in Africa. Ludim was a son of Mizraim Genesis 10:13, and the name Ludim, or Lybians, referring to a people, several times occurs in the Bible Jeremiah 46:9; Ezekiel 27:10; Ezekiel 30:5. These African Lybians are commonly mentioned in connection with Pul, Ethiopia, and Phut. Bochart supposes that Abyssinia is intended, but it is by no means certain that this is the place referred to. Josephus affirms that the descendants of Ludim are long since extinct, having been destroyed in the Ethiopian wars. It is clear that some part of Egypt is intended, says Calmer, but it is not easy to show exactly where they dwelt.
That draw the bow - (קשׁת משׁכי moshekēy qeshet). The Septuagint here renders the Hebrew phrase simply by Μοσὸχ Mosoch,’ understanding it of a place. Lowth supposes that the Hebrew phrase is a corruption of the word Moschi, the name of a nation situated between the Euxine and the Caspian seas. But there is no authority for supposing, as he does, that the word ‘bow’ has been interpolated. The Chaldee renders it, ‘Drawing and smiting with the bow.’ The idea is, that the nations here referred to were distinguished for the use of thw bow. The bow was in common use in wars; and it is by no means improbable that at that time they had acquired special fame in the use of this weapon.
To Tubal - Tubal was the fifth son of Japhet, and is here joined with Javan because they were among the settlers of Europe. The names before mentioned together relate to Africa, and the sense there is, that the message should be sent to Africa; here the idea is, that it should be sent to Europe. Tubal is commonly united with Meshech, and it is supposed that they populated countries bordering on each other. Bochart labors to prove that by Meshech and Tubal are intended the Muscovites and the Tibarenians. The Tibarenians of the Greeks were the people inhabiting the country south of the Caucasus, between the Black Sea and the Araxes. Josephus says, that ‘Tubal obtained the Thobelians (Θωβήλους Thōbēlous) who are reckoned among the Iberians.’ Jerome renders it, ‘Italy.’ It is not possible to determine with certainty the country that is referred to, though some part of Europe is doubtless intended.
And Javan - Jerome renders this, ‘Greece.’ So the Septuagint, Εἰς τήν Ἑλλάδα Eis tēn Hellada - ‘To Greece.’ Javan was the fourth son of Japhet, and was the father of the Ionians and the Greeks Genesis 10:2-4. The word ‘Ionia,’ Greek Ἰων Iōn, Ἰωνία Iōnia, is evidently derived from the word rendered here ‘Javan’ (יון yâvân), and in the Scriptures the word comprehends all the countries inhabited by the descendants of Javan, as well in Greece as in Asia Minor. Ionia properly was the beautiful province on the western part of Asia Minor - a country much celebrated in the Greek classics for its fertility and the salubrity of its climate - but the word used here includes all of Greece. Thus Daniel Daniel 11:2, speaking of Xerxes, says, ‘He shall stir up all against the realm of Javan.’ Alexander the Great is descried by the same prophet as ‘king of Javan’ Daniel 8:21; Daniel 10:20. The Hindus call the Greeks Yavanas - the ancient Hebrew appellation. It is needless to say, on the supposition that this refers to the propagation of the gospel by the apostles, that it was fulfilled. They went to Greece and to Asia Minor in the very commencement of their labors, and seme of the earliest and most flourishing churches were founded in the lands that were settled by the descendants of Javan.
To the isles afar off - (See the notes at Isaiah 41:1).
That have not heard my fame - Hebrew, ‘Who have not heard my report,’ that is, who were ignorant of the true God.
Neither have seen my glory - The glory which he had manifested to the Hebrews in giving his law, and in the various exhibitions of his character and perfections among them.
And they shall bring all your brethren - That is, as great success shall attend them as if they should bring back all who had gone there when scattered abroad, and should present them as an offering to Yahweh. The image here is taken from the scene which would be presented, should the distant nations be seen bringing the scattered exiles in all lands on horses, and on palanquins, and on dromedaries, again to Jerusalem, and presenting them before Yahweh in the city where they formerly dwelt. It is the image of a vast caravan, conducted by the pagan world when they had become tributary to the people of God, and when they united to return them to their own land. The spiritual signification is, that all they who should be appropriately called, brethren,’ all who should be the true friends of God, should be brought and offered to Yahweh; that is, there should be a great accession to the people of God from the pagan world.
For an offering unto the Lord. - Hebrew, מנחה minchāh - not a bloody offering or sacrifice: but an offering such as was made by flour, oil, etc. (see the notes at Isaiah 1:13.)
Out of all nations - The truth shall be proclaimed in all lands, and a vast accession shall be made from all parts of the world to the true church of God. To understand this description, we must form an idea of immense caravans proceeding from distant parts of the world to Jerusalem, bearing along the converts to the true religion to be dedicated to the service of Yahweh.
Upon horses - Horses were little used by the Hebrews (see the notes at Isaiah 2:7), but they are much used by the Arabs, and form an important part of the caravan that goes to distant places.
And in chariots - (Compare the notes at Isaiah 66:15). It is, however, by no means certain that the word used here refers to a wheeled vehicle, Such vehicles were not used in caravans. The editor of the Ruins of Palmyra tells us that the caravan they formed to go to that place, consisted of about two hundred persons, and about the same number of beasts of carriage, which were an odd mixture of horses, camels, mules, and asses; but there is no account of any vehicle drawn on wheels in that expedition, nor do we find an account of such things in other eastern journeys (Harmer). Coaches, Dr. Russel assures us, are not in use in Aleppo, nor are they commonly used in any of the countries of the East. The Hebrew word used here (רכב rekeb), means properly riding - riders, cavalry (see it explained in the notes at Isaiah 21:7); then any vehicle for riding - whether a wagon, chariot, or litter. Lowth renders it, ‘In litters.’ Pitts, in his account of the return from Mecca, describes a species of litter which was borne by two camels, one before and another behind, which was all covered over with searcloth, and that again with green broadcloth, and which was elegantly adorned. It is not improbable that some such vehicle is intended here, as it is certain that such things as wagons or chariots are not found in oriental caravans.
And in litters - Margin, ‘Coaches.’ But the word litters more properly expresses the idea. Lowth renders it, ‘Counes.’ Thevenot tells us that counes are hampers, or cradles, carried upon the backs of camels, one on each side, having a back, head, and sides, like great chairs. A covering is commonly laid over them to protect the rider from wind and rain. This is a common mode of traveling in the East. The coune, or hamper, is thrown across the back of the camel, somewhat in the manner of saddle-bags with us. Sometimes a person sits on each side, and they thus balance each other, and sometimes the end in which the person is placed is balanced by provisions, or articles of furniture in the other. ‘At Aleppo,’ says Dr. Russel, ‘women of inferior condition in long journeys are commonly stowed, one on each side of a mule, in a sort of covered cradles.’ The Hebrew word used here (צב tsab), means properly a litter, a sedan coach - what can be lightly or gently borne.
The Septuagint renders it, Ἐν λαμπήναις ἡμιόνων μετὰ σκιαδίων En lampēnais hēmionōn meta skiadiōn - ‘In litters of mules, with shades or umbrellas.’ Perhaps the following description of a scene in the khan at Acre, will afford an apt illustration of this passage. ‘The bustle was increased this morning by the departure of the wives of the governor of Jaffa. They set off in two coaches of a curious description, common in this country. The body of the coach was raised on two parallel poles, somewhat similar to those used for sedan chairs only that in these the poles were attached to the lower par; of the coach - throwing consequently the center of gravity much higher, and apparently exposing the vehicle, with its veiled tenant, to an easy overthrow, or at least to a very active jolt. Between the poles strong mules were harnessed, one before and one behind; who, if they should prove capricious, or have very uneven or mountainous ground to pass, would render the situation of the ladies still more critical.’ (Jowett’s Christian Researches in Syria, pp. 115, 116, Amos Ed.)
And upon swift beasts - Dromedaries. So Lowth and Noyes render it; and so the word used here - כרכרות kirekârôt - properly denotes. The word is derived from כיר kārar, to dance; and the name is given to them for their bounding or dancing motion, their speed being also sometimes accelerated by musical instruments (Bochart, Hieroz. i. 2, 4). For a description of the dromedary, see the notes at Isaiah 60:6.
As the children of Israel - As the Jews bear an offering to Yahweh in a vessel that is pure, The utmost attention was paid to the cleanliness of their vessels in their public worship.
And I will also take of them for priests - I will give to them an honorable place in my public service; that is, I will make them ministers of religion as if they were priests and Levites. This cannot be taken literally - because the priests and Levites among the Jews were determined by law, and by regular genealogical descent, and there was no provision for substituting any in their place. But it must mean that under the condition of things described here, those who should be brought from the distant pagan world would perform the same offices in the service of God which had been performed formerly by the priests and Levites that is, they would be ministers of religion. The services of God would no longer be performed by the descendants of Aaron, or be limited to them, but would be performed by others who should be called to this office from the pagan world.
For as the new heavens and the new earth - (See the notes at Isaiah 65:17).
Shall remain before me - They shall not pass away and be succeeded by others. The idea is, that the state of things here described would be permanent and abiding.
So shall your seed and your name remain - (See the notes at Isaiah 65:15).
And it shall come to pass - As the prophet closes the book and winds up his whole prophecy, he directs the attention to that future period which had occupied so much of his attention in vision, when the whole world should be acquainted with the true religion, and all nations should worship Yahweh. Of such a book there could be no more appropriate close; and such a contemplation especially became the last prophetic moments of the ‘evangelical prophet’ Isaiah.
From one new moon to another - Margin, ‘New moon to his new moon.’ The Hebrew literally is, ‘As often as the month cometh in its month;’ that is, in its time, every month, every new moon (Gesenius, Lexicon, on the word מדי midēy). The Hebrews held a festival on the return of each month, or at every new moon (see the notes at Isaiah 1:14). A similar prophecy occurs in Zechariah 14:16 : ‘And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came up against Jerusalem, shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles.’ In regard to the meaning of this, it is evident that it cannot be taken literally. In the nature of things it would be impossible for all nations to go literally before Yahweh in Jerusalem once a month, or once a year, to worship. It must then be meant that at periodical seasons, all the human family would worship Yahweh. The festivals of the new moon, the feast of tabernacles, and the sabbaths, were the set time among the Hebrews for the worship of God; and the idea is, that on set times, or at regularly recurring intervals, the worship of God would yet be celebrated in all lands. I see no evidence, therefore, that this means that there should be established on the earth the habit of meeting for prayer, or for the worship of God once a month - anymore than the passage above quoted from Zechariah proves that a feast like that of tabernacles would be celebrated once a year. But the idea is clear, that the time would come when Yahweh would be worshipped regularly and periodically everywhere; that in all nations his worship would be established in a manner similar in some respects to that which prevailed among his people in ancient times.
And from one Sabbath to another - (Compare the notes at Isaiah 58:13-14). There can be no permanent worship of God, and no permanent religion on earth, without a Sabbath; and hence it was, that while the observance of the feasts of tabernacles, and of the Passover, and of the new moons, made a part of the ceremonial law, the law respecting the sabbaths was incorporated with the ten commandments as of moral and perpetual obligation; and it will be literally true that all the race shall yet be brought to worship God on the return of that holy day. It was instituted in paradise; and as one design of the plan of redemption is to bring man back to the state in which he was in paradise, so one effect of the true religion everywhere will be, and is, to make people reverence the Sabbath of the Lord. No man becomes truly pious who does not love the holy Sabbath. No nation ever has been, or ever can be converted which will not, and which does not, love and observe that day. Every successful effort to propagate the true religion is a successful effort to extend the practice of observing it; and just as certain as it is that Christianity will be spread around the world, so cerrain will it be that the Sabbath will be observed in all lands. The period is, therefore, yet to arrive when the delightful spectacle will be presented of all the nations of the earth bowing on the return of that day before the living God. The plans of this life will be suspended; toil and care will be laid aside; and the sun, as he rolls around the world, will rouse nation after nation to the worship of the true God; and the peace and order and loveliness of the Christian Sabbath will spread over all the hills and vales of the world. Who that loves the race will not desire that such a period may soon come? Who can wonder that Isaiah should have fixed his eye in the close of his prophetic labors on a scene so full of loveliness, and so replete with honor to God, and with goodwill to people?
Shall all flesh - All the human family, all nations - a most unequivocal promise that the true religion shall yet prevail around the world.
Come to worship before me - That is, they shall assemble for the worship of God in their respective places of devotion.
And they shall go forth - The sense of this verse evidently is, that the pious and happy worshippers of God shall see the punishment which he will execute on his and their foes, or shall see them finally destroyed. It refers to the time when the kingdom of God shall be finally and perpetually established, and when all the mighty enemies of that kingdom shall be subdued and punished. The image is probably taken from a scene where a people whose lands have been desolated by mighty armies are permitted to go forth after a decisive battle to walk over the fields of the slain, and to see the dead and the putrifying bodies of their once formidable enemies.
And look upon the carcasses of the men - The dead bodies of the foes of God (see Isaiah 66:15-16).
For their worm shall not die - This image is evidently taken from the condition of unburied bodies, and especially on a battlefield. The Hebrew word (תולע tôlâ‛) properly refers to the worms which are generated in such corrupting bodies (see Exodus 16:20; the notes at Isaiah 14:11). It is sometimes applied to the worm from which the crimson or deep scarlet color was obtained (the notes at Isaiah 1:18); but it more properly denotes that which is produced in putrid substances. This entire passage is applied by the Saviour to future punishment; and is the fearful image which he employs to denote the final suffering of the wicked in hell. My views on its meaning may be seen in the notes at Mark 9:44, Mark 9:46.
Neither shall their fire be quenched - The fire that shall consume them shall burn perpetually. This image is taken evidently from the fires kindled, especially in the valley of Hinnom, to consume puffed and decaying substances. That was a valley on the south side of Jerusalem, into which the filth of the city was thrown. It was the place where, formerly, an image of brass was raised to Moloch, and where children were offered in sacrifice 2Ki 16:3; 2 Chronicles 28:3. See a description of this in the notes at Matthew 5:22. This place was subsequently regarded as a place of special abomination by the Jews. The filth of the city was thrown there, and it became extremely offensive. The air was polluted and pestilential; the sight was terrific; and to preserve it in any manner pure, it was necessary to keep fires continually burning there. The extreme loathsomeness of the place, the filth and putrefaction, the corruption of the atmosphere, and the lurid fires blazing by day and by night, made it subsequently one of the most appalling and loathsome objects with which a Jew was acquainted.
It was called the gehenna of fire, and was the image which the Saviour often employed to denote the future punishment of the wicked. In that deep and loathsome vale it seems to have been the common expectation of the Jews that some great battle would be fought which would establish the supremacy of their nation over all others. Hence, the Chaldee renders this, ‘They shall go forth, and shall look upon the dead bodies of the sinners who have rebelled against my word; because their souls shall not die, and their fire shall not be extinguished; and the wicked shall be judged in Gehenna (בגיהנם begēyhı̂nâm from גי gay and הנם hinnôm, hence coming down into Greek as γέεννα geenna), until the righteous shall say, We have seen enough.’ It is, however, by no means certain that Isaiah refers here especially to the valley of Hinnom. The image in his mind is evidently that of a vast army slain, and left to putrify on the field unburied, and where fires would be kindled in part to consume the heaps of the slain, and in part to save the air from pestilential influences, All the enemies of God and his church would be like such a vast host strewed on the plains, and the perpetuity of his kingdom would be finally established.
And they shall be an abhorring - An object of loathing. So the Hebrew word דראון dêrâ'ôn, means. It is derived from דרא dârâ', an obsolete root, signifying, in Arabic, to thrust away, to repel. Jerome renders it, Ad satietatem visionis - understanding by it, that all flesh should look upon those dead bodies Until they were satisfied. The Septuagint, Εἰς ὅρασιν Eis horasin - ‘For a vision;’ or that all flesh might look upon them. It is evident that the Septuagint reads the word as if it were derived from the verb ראה râ'âh), “to see.”
Unto all flesh - (See Isaiah 66:23). The sense is, that so entire would be their overthrow, and such objects of loathing would they become, that all the friends of God would turn from them in abhorrence. All the enemies of God would be destroyed; the pure religion would triumph, and the people of God would be secure.
It may be made a question, perhaps, to what period this refers. The Saviour Mark 9:44, Mark 9:46, applied the language to the future punishment of the wicked, and no one, I think, can doubt that in Isaiah it includes that consummation of worldly affairs. The radical and essential idea in the prophet is, as it seems to me, that such would be the entire overthrow and punishment of the enemies of God; so condign their punishment; so deep their sufferings; so loathsome and hateful would they be when visited with the divine vengeance for their sins, that they would be an object of loathing and abhorrence. They would be swept off as unworthy to live with God, and they would be consigned to punishment - loathsome like that of ever gnawing worms on the carcasses of the slain, and interminable and dreadful like everconsuming and extinguishable fires.
This is the consummation of the series of bright visions that passed before the mind of Isaiah, and is an appropriate termination of this succession of wonderful revelations. Where could it more appropriately close than in the final triumph of the true religion, and in the complete and final destruction of all the enemies of Gods. The vision stretches on to the judgment, and is closed by a contemplation of those scenes which commence there, but which never end. The church is triumphant. Its conflicts cease. Its foes are slain. Its Redeemer is revealed; and its everlasting happiness is founded on a basis which can never be shaken.
Here I close my labors in endeavoring to elucidate the visions of this wonderful prophet. I thank God - the source of every right feeling and every holy desire, and the suggester of every plan that will in any way elucidate his word or promote his glory - that he ever inclined my heart to these studies. I thank him for the preservation of my life, and the continuance of my health, until I am permitted to bring this work to a close. I record, with grateful emotions, my deep conviction, that if in any way I have been enabled to explain that which was before dark; to illustrate that which was obscure; or to present any views which have not before occurred to those who may peruse this work, it is owing to the gracious influences of his Holy Spirit. And I desire to render thanks to the Great Source of light and truth, if I have been enabled to throw any light on the prophecies recorded here more than 2500 years ago; or to confirm the faith of any in the truth of the inspiration of the Bible by tracing the evidences of the fulfillment of those predictions.
And I now commend the work to the blessing of God, and devote it to the glory of his name and to the advancement of the Redeemer’s kingdom, with a humble prayer that it may be useful to other minds; but with the deep conviction, that whatever may be its effect on other minds, I have been abundantly compensated for all my labor in the contemplation of the inimitable beauties, and the sublime visions of Isaiah. thanks to God for this book; thanks for all its beauties, its consolations, its promises, its views of the Messiah, its predictions of the certain triumph of truth, and its glowing descriptions of the future conquest of the church, when God shall extend to it ‘peace like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream.’ Come soon that blessed day, when ‘the ransomed of the Lord shall return to Zion, with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads’ Isaiah 35:10; when ‘the wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose’ Isaiah 35:1; and when it shall be announced to the church, ‘thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself, for Yahweh shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended’ Isaiah 60:20.
May I be permitted to close my labors on this book in the beautiful language of Vitringa? ‘These words Isaiah 66:23-24 express the final doom of the two opposite classes of people, the righteous and the wicked, when, after various preparatory judgments of God, the fates of all ages, and our own also, shall be determined; with which also this divine book of Isaiah itself is terminated.
Be it our lot, with those who are holy; with those who fear God and love the truth; with the humble, meek, and merciful, and with those who persevere in every good work to the end of life, from the gracious sentence of our great Lord, Saviour, and Judge, Jesus Christ, to obtain, by the will of the Father, the same portion with them. In which hope, I also, now deeply affected, and prostrate before his throne, give humble thanks to God the Father, and his Son Christ Jesus, through the Spirit, for the grace and light with which he has endowed me, his unworthy servant, in commencing and completing the commentary on this book; entreating, with earnest prayer, of his grace and mercy, that, pardoning those errors into which erroneously I may have fallen, he will employ this work, such as it is, to the glory of his name, the use of the church, and the consolation of his people; and to Him be the glory throughout all ages.’