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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

Isaiah 65

Verses 1-25

God’s Reply to the Intercession ( 65 : 1 - 25 )

Whether this chapter was originally composed by the author of the preceding intercessory prayer is not known. It is clear, however, that the school of Second Isaiah which put the material together in the form in which we have it, regarded the poem as God’s answer to the intercession of the prophet. The evil of Israel is such that God is now going to make a division between those who are his true servants and those who will not serve him. The former will be the heirs of the new life in the new age; the latter will not. In pre-exilic prophecy the announcement of God’s judgment of the people was also a call to repentance. The wedge of God’s judgment was thus driven into the midst of the community, separating the true Israel from the false Israel. That separation is now drawn sharply and explicitly in this eschatological passage. The picture was to be sharpened even more in the Intertestament period when belief in the underworld to which all men went upon death was revised into a picture of hell inhabited by those whom God has judged and found past redemption.

God is the speaker in the first section of the chapter (vss. 1-7). His answer to the preceding intercession is that he was ready to be sought at all times, but Israel did not seek him. Instead, in response to his pleas, the people turned their backs and followed rebellious and idolatrous practices. Verses 8-10 give God’s announcement of what he is going to do about the situation. A popular saying concerning the vineyard harvest is quoted in verse 8. Those gathering the grapes will say about a particular cluster, “Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing in it.” Thus God is not going to destroy the whole people, but will save particular clusters of them who will again inhabit the Promised Land. The reference to Sharon (vs. 10) is to the northern coastal plain which in ancient times was filled with swamps. This land now will become a pasture for flocks. The Valley of Achor is probably to be identified as a barren area called today the Buqeiah, in the hills above Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls people had their monastery at the northwestern tip of the Dead Sea. This desolate place will also become a fine pasture land.

Verses 11-16 give the prophet’s words to the sinners who will not listen to God, but who indulge in worship of the pagan deities, Gad and Meni (translated as “Fortune” and “Destiny”). Verses 13-14 quote God’s decision to separate his true servants from those who will not honor him. Then comes the explanation that the rebels will be slain and those who remain will be purified of all taint (vss. 15-16).

The new community having been purged, the prophet is now free to present again the picture of the glorious age to come. It will be a new creation, and the terror and sadness connected with “the former things” will no longer be remembered. Jerusalem will now be inhabited by a joyous people among whom there will be no more weeping or distress, and no more untimely death, either for infants or for older people. “They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity . . .” ; and God will be close to them and will respond to their needs before they ask (vss. 2324). Verse 25 repeats in slightly different language the thought of 11:6-9 including the first part of verse 9: “They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain.” The new age will see the remedy for all that is unnatural in current history and in the life of nature. The words in verse 25, “and dust shall be the serpent’s food,” are a reference to Genesis 3:14. Presumably this means that in the future not even snakes will be harmful; their normal diet will be the dust of the earth.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Isaiah 65". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/isaiah-65.html.