Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, July 25th, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 66

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Verses 1-4


The final chapter of Isaiah is at the same time a climax and summary of the prophecies of Isaiah. The opening section of this chapter is a continuation of the glorious vision of the future in the previous chapter. However, the great point of connection with the previous chapter is the contrast between the true and faithful servant of God and the apostate and worldly character of the majority of the nation.

God protests against the latter and their ideas to establish a temple in Jerusalem. There are forms of sacrifice that the LORD hates. One form is idolatry, in which sacrifices are made to idols. The other form is that in which people come to Him, but with an untruthful, hypocritical heart or out of rut and no more than tradition.

Reprehensible Temple Service

As Creator of heaven and earth He does not need anyone to build a house for Him (Isaiah 66:1). He is not looking for people who are only after a beautiful building. In the end times the unbelieving Jews will rebuild the temple. There the antichrist will place an image of the beast. There will be animal sacrifices again and religious festivals will be celebrated in the then rebuilt temple in Jerusalem. All this will take place under the protection of an alliance with the restored Roman empire, the united states of Europe. But the LORD does not value this outward form service.

People who only have an eye for outer forms, are also there today. When people come who do not love Him, a temple means nothing to Him (cf. Jeremiah 7:4). In this sense, Stephen also speaks to the Sanhedrin in his speech to make it clear to them that they have preferred the symbol to the reality of a relationship with God (Acts 7:44-1 Timothy :). They place religion above relation.

What the LORD is looking for him who is humble and contrite of spirit and who fears of God (Isaiah 66:2). From those who do not have these characteristics, He expects no action to build the temple or that they come to bring offerings. With a sweeping judgment the LORD makes it clear that the sacrifices of the hypocritical worshipers are for Him like committing gross iniquities (Isaiah 66:3).

To Him, killing an ox while they have an untruthful heart is like killing a human being. Likewise, the sacrifice of a lamb or a grain offering without humility is for Him equal to the bringing of an unclean animal like a dog or something from a swine. For Him, the tribute that they think they bring to Him means blessing an idol.

They have chosen to follow the path of the heathen with their horrors. To this the LORD answers that He will make a choice and that He will take their deceitful deliberations and will bring upon them what they fear. He does so because they did not answer when He called and they refused to listen to His words (Isaiah 66:4).

In the time after the rapture of the church and before the coming of Christ to earth, the faithful remnant of Israel will again proclaim the gospel of the kingdom (Matthew 24:14), both to the people and to the whole world. But even then, the mass of the people refuses to repent.

Verses 5-6

Mockers Will Be Put to Shame

In Isaiah 66:5 the LORD turns again to the minority consisting of those who tremble at His word out of reverence and awe. They live in deep awe of every word of Scripture. This should also characterize us.

This minority proclaims the gospel of the kingdom to the people of Israel, but they will reject the message, yes, they will get an aversion to the messengers of the gospel. In addition, after about three and a half years, a man will rise up with wonders and signs who will be accepted by the people as their king and their Christ (John 5:43). He is called the antichrist by Scripture. Together with the leader of the restored Roman empire or the united states of Europe, he will unleash a terrible persecution against the believing remnant. Many will perish in the process.

Finally, the antichrist will set up an abomination of destruction in the temple in Jerusalem, causing the faithful to flee and leave Jerusalem (Matthew 24:15-Daniel :). The persecution will be terrible. What makes the persecution extra heavy is that the persecutors are not only the heathen peoples, but also the antichrist, the false king of Israel and the mass of the unbelieving and apostate people of Israel.

The LORD promises the believing remnant that He will deal with their brethren who have hated and persecuted them, increasing the abomination of their sins. They have ventured with mocking unbelief to abuse the name of the LORD and to challenge Him to show His glory. These apostates regard any hope in God as pure deception.

The LORD has decided to put them to shame. The city and the temple are in ruins – caused by the king of the North – but there will come a time when there will be noise in the city again and a voice will be heard in the temple, “the voice of the LORD”! He will render recompense to His enemies (Isaiah 66:6). These are not only the enemies in the Jewish people, but also the heathen conspiring against the LORD and against His Anointed (Psalms 2:1-Exodus :). When the LORD was as the Lamb on earth, He did not open His mouth (Isaiah 53:7), but now it is different (cf. Revelation 19:15).

Verses 7-11

A New Birth and Joy

With the return of Christ, the nations are judged and the believing remnant of Israel is redeemed. It is now time for the Person of Christ to be revealed to the people.

In view of this, Isaiah 66:7 mentions the future time of Jacob’s distress – “travail” over the people through the antichrist – and the fact of the coming of Christ in the flesh. This experience of the people contrasts with the circumstances of a natural birth. There first come the travail and then the birth. Here the order is reversed and that provokes the question of Isaiah 66:8.

There is a clear connection with the first verses of Revelation 12 (Revelation 12:1-Joshua :). There the people are presented as a woman and are said to have given birth to a male Child. That refers to the Lord Jesus. The Roman power, under the inspiration of Satan, has been ready to devour the Child, as is written in Revelation 12 (Revelation 12:4), and thereby fulfilled what is written there. Herod would have killed the Child, as soon as the woman had given birth to it, if he had been able to do so. But the male Child was caught up to God and His throne. This refers to the birth, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ, which have already taken place.

The death and resurrection of Christ are passed over here. The ascension is the result of the rejection of Christ by the people of Israel. Thus, the people have met Christ before. The era of Christendom is a hidden one in the Old Testament and is therefore passed over here. The great tribulation is still future and is presented here as a direct result of the rejection of Christ. This explains the reversal of the natural order of the circumstances of birth as Isaiah suggests, that the birth is there before the travail comes.

The following questions in Isaiah 66:8 point to the consequence and outcome of the people’s travails. These two questions should be answered positively, while the first two questions should be answered in the negative. The answer is given at the end of the verse. Then there is first travail and then birth. That is a difference with the foregoing, where it was about Christ. In agreement with travail and birth we see that the result of the great tribulation is: God’s earthly people as a nation in peace, joy and justice under the mighty hand of His Messiah and Liberator.

That is why the Lord Jesus calls this era “the regeneration” (Matthew 19:28). It is not about the national restoration of the people of Israel, but about the spiritual restoration of these people. The people must be distinguished from the “boy” in Isaiah 66:7.

In summary we find here two births and one travail. The first birth is of Christ and the second of the faithful remnant. Between these two births we find the one travail, that is the great tribulation. The period of two thousand years between the ascension of Christ and the great tribulation is not counted here.

Isaiah 66:9 gives the certainty that the LORD will finish His work. After the travail, the birth will follow. He will complete the birth of the people. In view of that birth which takes place when He frees His people from their time of unprecedented tribulation, there follows a call of the LORD to all who rejoice in Him and His purpose. All who love His earthly people may rejoice with Jerusalem and rejoice over her (Isaiah 66:10). Those who mourn her wretched condition, deprived of children, are invited to rejoice with her. Those who are so concerned with her in the time to come will have the benefit of it when she is established on earth.

In Isaiah 66:11 Jerusalem is presented as a mother who brings forth children and nurses them personally. Thereby there is left enough for others, so that she is also a source of blessing for all those outside Jerusalem who come to her. She is not the source of blessing herself, but derives all blessing from the LORD.

Verses 12-14

Jerusalem, Source of Comfort and Growth

The LORD declares that He will extend peace to her like a river (Isaiah 66:12). Israel will receive the riches of the nations who will take care of the people with the greatest devotion and attentiveness (cf. Isaiah 49:23; Isaiah 60:4). Jerusalem was destroyed by the king of the North, but now the Lord Jesus comes to Jerusalem with the believing remnant. Thus begins the restoration of the land, the full fulfillment of the year of jubilee (Leviticus 25:8-1 Chronicles :), or the “period of restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21).

In Isaiah 66:13 the LORD explains how He Himself will care for His people in Jerusalem with motherly care. God is father and mother at the same time. The result of that care is that their hearts will rejoice and their bones (body) will flourish like young grass (Isaiah 66:14). This is a vivid description of the prosperous state of Israel when the LORD rules over the earth. It is a state of perfect peace (Isaiah 32:17-Job :).

The last part of Isaiah 66:14 makes it clear that no power of the enemy will be able to threaten this peace, for His indignation is public on His enemies.

Verses 15-17

The LORD Comes to Judge

The blessing of the previous verses is the result of defeating their enemies against whom the LORD will act with indignation (Isaiah 66:15-Nehemiah :). To this end He will appear in consuming glory.

In Isaiah 66:17 the LORD deals with those of His people who have corrupted themselves and become worse than the nations. They have done things that are horrible in the eye of the LORD. Their sanctification and cleansing was an idolatrous ritual. “Gardens” are the areas where they commit idolatry (Isaiah 65:3-Numbers :). “One in the center” is some idol to whom they sacrifice and who is central to their lives. The sacrificial meal they held consisted of food that God had labeled as abominable (Leviticus 11:41-Luke :).

They will disappear. They will share in the fate of the followers of the antichrist. The judgment that will come upon them will take place in “the great wine press of the wrath of God” (Revelation 14:19).

Verses 18-21

An Offering for the LORD

By way of contrast, the prophecy turns again to the future of Israel and the favorable treatment of them by the nations in the realm of peace. The statement that the LORD knows their works and their thoughts is a transition from the apostates in Isaiah 66:17 to the redeemed people and the way in which the nations will support them. All nations and tongues will be gathered to Palestine and there they will see the glory of the LORD (Isaiah 66:18; Matthew 25:31-Micah :).

For this purpose, the LORD will set a sign among them and that for the restoration of His people in distant places. What this sign is is not communicated. Most obvious is that this sign is the sign of the Son of Man (Matthew 24:30). Perhaps we can also think of a certain form of supernatural intervention in the world by judging the enemies of Israel, as He did through the ten plagues at the liberation of His people from Egypt (Exodus 10:2; Psalms 78:43; Psalms 105:27). It is a sign that will not be misunderstood.

In any case, the LORD makes it clear here that He will send the survivors upon their return as messengers to the nations from which they have come (Isaiah 66:19). They will go to all parts of the world, to nations that have not heard the tidings about Him and have not seen His glory, so that they may make His glory known all over the earth. He sends His messengers to Tarshish in the west, to Put and Lud in the south, to Tubal and Javan in the north, and to the distant coastlands, possibly in the east.

As a result, many of these nations will pretend to pay homage to the LORD (Psalms 66:3; Micah 7:16-Esther :). The nations will bring the Israelites “from all the nations as a grain offering to the LORD” (Isaiah 66:20; cf. Romans 15:16). They will be brought to His holy mountain Jerusalem, just as the children of Israel used to bring their offerings in clean vessels to the house of the LORD. God’s people come to Jerusalem from the nations with a wide variety of means of transportation, including the airplane (cf. Isaiah 60:8).

The people who come look like clean vessels. They are cleansed from their sins and brought to a walk in the ways of the LORD. Thus He will be able to take out of them as priests and Levites (Isaiah 66:21), as God intended His people at the exodus from Egypt (Exodus 19:6).

Verses 22-24

Worship and Horror

Isaiah ends his prophecy with a striking contrast. The people of Israel will continue to exist in offspring and name, as sure as the new heavens and the new earth, because they are inextricably connected with Christ (Isaiah 66:22). Because of His presence in their midst all that lives will come to worship Him every new moon and every sabbath (Isaiah 66:23; cf. Zechariah 14:16). “All mankind” are the survivors of all the nations that have gone up against Jerusalem.

The contrast between what they come to do and what they will see is great. When the nations come to worship God, they will see an everlasting reminder of the terrible nature and consequences of rebellion against God (Isaiah 66:24). The bodies of the enemies of Israel will be brought to a valley east of the Dead Sea, “the valley of Hamon-gog” (Ezekiel 39:11). It will be a monument as a warning for the enemies of God.

The picture of fire used here is taken from the valley Hinnom, just outside Jerusalem. The Lord Jesus refers three times to this valley, where the garbage from Jerusalem was burned to warn for the eternal fate of every unrepentant (Mark 9:43-2 Corinthians :). He thus gives it an application that goes beyond the thousand years realm of peace and makes it a picture of hell, “the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).

Nevertheless, despite this warning sight, a spirit of dissatisfaction over the just and benevolent government of the Lord Jesus will take hold of the nations. As a result, at the end of a thousand years, the nations will rebel against Him when, under the permission of God, Satan is released from his prison to mislead them (Revelation 20:7-Ruth :).

No purely natural circumstances, however peaceful and blessed they may be, can give new life to a human heart. This new life, together with absolute attachment to Christ, must always be based on faith in the value of His atonement blood.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Isaiah 66". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/isaiah-66.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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