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ISAIAH CHAPTER 66
God is served with the Spirit, and not by ceremonies, Isaiah 66:1-4,
the wonderful birth and benefits of the gospel church, Isaiah 66:5-14.
Severe judgments against the wicked, Isaiah 66:15-18.
The Gentiles shall be a holy church, Isaiah 66:19-23.
The eternal punishment of the wicked, Isaiah 66:24.
The heaven is my throne; the heaven, that is, the highest heavens, are the place where I most manifest my power and glory, and show myself in my majesty. Psalms 11:4; Psalms 103:19; Matthew 5:34. Hence we are taught to pray, Our Father which art in heaven. And
the earth is my footstool, or a place wherein I set my feet, Matthew 5:35.
Where is the house that ye build unto me? can there be a house builded that will contain me, who can encompass the heavens and the earth with a house? Where is the place of my rest? or, where is the place wherein I can be said to rest in a proper sense? The ark is indeed God’s footstool, and the
place of his
rest, in a figurative sense, because there God manifested himself, though in degrees much beneath the manifestations of himself in heaven; but properly, God hath no certain place of rest.
For all those things hath my hand made; the heavens and the earth are the work of my hands, Genesis 1:1; John 1:3. (Some expound it of the temple and the sacrifices.)
All those things have been; they were not only made by God, but subsisted and were kept in being by him. These things were not therefore valued by him, nor could he have any need of or respect to any house, which is but a very little part of the earth; he having made the heavens and the earth, had all them at his command; and how could he need a temple, or wherein could he be advantaged from it? But God will look with a respect, and with a favourable eye, to him that hath
a broken and contrite spirit, whose heart is subdued to the will of God, and who is poor and low in his own eyes, Matthew 5:3; Luke 6:20, and who trembleth when he heareth God’s threatening words, nor ever heareth any revelation of the Divine will without a just reverence.
Solomon, Proverbs 15:8, gives us a short but full commentary on the whole verse, The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord. He that killeth an ox, that is, for sacrifice, as it is expounded by the next words, he that sacrificeth a lamb. The comparisons show God’s detestation of ceremonial performances from men of wicked hearts and lives. He that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol: from hence it is plain that the prophet is not here reflecting upon idolatrous worship, but formal worship; for to say, he that burneth incense to an idol is as he that blesseth an idol, is but to say, he that blesseth an idol blesseth an idol; but upon those who in a formality worshipped the true God, and by acts which he had appointed, such were offering sacrifices, oblation, incense. God by the prophet declares that these men’s services were no more acceptable to him than murder, idolatry, or the most horrid profanation of his name. Such would cutting off a dog’s neck for sacrifice have been, or offering swine’s blood; so little do ritual performances, though instituted by God himself, please God, when they are but mere formalities, as they always are when those that perform them live as they list, lewd and loose lives, and think to save themselves by their prayers, like the whore, Proverbs 7:14,Proverbs 7:15; not only sinning by human frailty, but taking pleasure in their sins, Proverbs 15:26. To offer a sacrifice with a heart resolved (when it is offered) to go on in sinful courses, is to offer it with an evil mind. This is a dreadful text to those persons who will murder, and steal, and swear, and curse, and lie, and commit adultery, and then come and stand before God in his house, which is called by his name, that is, come to serve him in acts of worship, Leviticus 10:3; see Psalms 50:16-18; Isaiah 1:11-14; Jeremiah 7:9,Jeremiah 7:10; Matthew 7:21-23; John 4:24; 1 Timothy 4:8.
They had made their choice, they chose not the ways of God, but their own ways, that which God delighted not in, as in the latter part of this verse; therefore (saith God) I will also choose their delusions, or illusions, or devices. Montanus translates it, ad inventionibus; it is a noun derived from a word which signifies to speak childishly or corruptly; the word in this form is only used in this text, and in 1 Samuel 25:3; it signifies studies, or works, Psalms 12:4; Isaiah 3:4; Hosea 4:9. It is an ordinary thing for God thus generally to declare his justice against men, that he will deal with sinners as they deal with him; so Psalms 18:25,Psalms 18:26; Leviticus 26:27,Leviticus 26:28; Jeremiah 34:17; Proverbs 1:24,Proverbs 1:28. The meaning is, I will be no kinder to them than they have been to me; they have chosen to mock and delude me, I will choose to suffer them to delude themselves; or they have chosen to work wickedness, I will choose the effect. Their fears; that is, (say some,) the things which they feared, and did these things to avoid, as Jeremiah 42:16; Ezekiel 11:8. Others by their fears choose rather to understand such terrors and affrightments as are natural to men upon the prospect of great evils, as. Leviticus 20:4; as God in mercy delivereth his people from their fears, Psalms 34:4; so in judgment he causeth fears as a great judgment to possess sinners, Leviticus 26:16; Deuteronomy 28:66.
Because when I called, none did answer; because when by my prophets I exhorted you to your duty, very few yielded obedience: see Proverbs 1:24; Isaiah 65:12; Jeremiah 7:13.
When I spake, they did not hear: hearing here signifieth hearkening or obeying; not hearing is expounded by doing evil, and choosing that wherein God delighted not. God accounts that those do not hear who do not obey his will.
The prophet turneth his discourse from denouncing judgment against the idolaters and formalists amongst the Jews to such as feared God, whose religion is described by a
trembling at his word, as Isaiah 66:2; such a turning of the prophet’s discourse was Isaiah 1:10; Isaiah 51:1,Isaiah 51:7. The same words belong not to saints and presumptuous sinners. Your brethren, by nation, or by external profession in religion, though false brethren, Galatians 2:4. Thus Paul calls all the rejected Jews
brethren, Romans 9:3. That cast you out; that either shut you out of their intimate society, or (which is more probable) excommunicate and cast you out of their synagogues, or cast you out of their city, and some of you out of the world, John 9:22,John 9:35; John 16:2.
For my name’s sake, i.e. for my sake, for your owning me and adherence to my law. Said, Let the Lord be glorified; either mocking you, as the Jews did Christ, when hanging union the cross, Matthew 27:43; Luke 23:35; thus they mocked at David, Psalms 42:3. Or,
Let the Lord be glorified, thinking they did God good service, John 16:2.
But he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed; there will come a day when God shall appear and let them know his judgment concerning their violence and rage, then you shall have joy, and they shall be ashamed, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18.
A voice of noise from the city; the expression of a prophetical ecstasy, as much as, Methinks I already hear
a voice of noise, rather a sad and affrighting noise, than the noise of triumphers (as some think); yea, it comes not from the city only, but from the temple, wherein these formalists have so much gloried, and reposed so much confidence. There is a noise of soldiers slaying, and of the priests or poor people fled thither shrieking or crying out.
A voice of the Lord; not in thunder, which is sometimes called so, Psalms 29:3-5, &c., but
that rendereth recompence to his enemies. Thus the noise of soldiers, the roaring of guns, the sound of drums and trumpets, are the voice of the Lord. Thus the prophet seemeth to express the destruction of the Jews by the Roman armies, as if a thing at that time doing.
The whole verse is expressive of a great and sudden salvation, which God would work for his church, like the delivery of a woman, and that of a
man child, before her travail, and without pain. The only doubt is, whether it referreth to the deliverance of the people out of Babylon, or the world’s surprisal with the Messiah, and the sudden and strange propagation of the gospel, and it is a question not easily determined. The delivery of the Jews out of Babylon, indeed, was without strugglings or any pain; not like their deliverance from Egypt, after the wasting of their enemies by ten successive plagues, but by the kind proclamation of Cyrus. But it seems not to have been sudden, only as to the day, and hour, and manner; for Daniel understood by books that the time was come, Daniel 9:2, and the people had a prospect of it seventy years before, Jeremiah 25:12; Jeremiah 29:10. The prophecy therefore seems rather to refer to the coming of Christ, and the sudden propagation of the gospel. The popish interpreters applying it to the Virgin Mary bringing forth Christ, is like other of their fond dreams.
The prophet calls either to the whole world, or to such as feared God amongst the Jews, to admire God in his stupendous works of providence, either in the easy manner of the deliverance of the Jews out of the captivity of Babylon, without any pain, without so much as one throe; or else in the erecting of his gospel church, into which all the Jews that received Christ were gathered as well as Gentiles, making both one, Ephesians 2:14; which seems to be meant by the earth’s bringing forth in one day; as great a work of Providence as if all the women in the world should have brought forth in a day, or as if all the plants of the earth had brought forth their flowers and fruit in one day.
As soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth children; as soon as the church of the Jews began to move out of the captivity of Babylon, God put it into the hearts of multitudes to go up, Exodus 1:5; Isaiah 2:1,Isaiah 2:2, &c. Or, as soon as the voice of the gospel put the church of the Jews into her travail, in John the Baptist’s, Christ’s, and the apostles’ times, it presently brought forth. In John Baptist’s time, the kingdom of heaven suffered violence, and the violent took it by force, Matthew 11:12; and it continued so, as three thousand were converted at Peter’s sermon, Acts 2:0. The Gentiles were the children of Zion, being planted into their stock, tho law of the gospel first going out of Zion.
The work before spoken of seemeth not after the manner of men, who do things that are great gradually, nor in an ordinary course of nature, whose motions also bring things by degrees to their perfection; but you must consider who it is that speaketh,
saith the Lord; now as is the God, so is his strength. Again, men may undertake things, and for want of power not bring them to perfection; but shall I do such a thing? I have by many prophecies and promises secured you in the expectation of such a thing, and shall I not by my providence effect it? I, that in the ordinary course of my providence use to give a birth to women, to whom I have given a power to conceive, shall I not give a birth to Zion, to my people, whom by my prophecies and promises I have made to conceive such hopes and expectations? Nor shall Zion once only bring forth, but she shall go on teeming; her womb shall not be shut, she shall every day bring forth more and more children; my presence shall be with my church to that end, to the end of the world.
There is nothing more ordinary amongst men, than for friends and neighbours to meet together with their friends recovered from affliction, or brought into a better state, to rejoice with them, especially such friends as in their afflictions have mourned with them. Thus Mary, Luke 1:40, went to rejoice with Elisabeth, and Job’s friends came to rejoice with him, Job 42:11. The prophet in like manner calls to all the friends of Jerusalem, especially such as in the days of her affliction had mourned for her, to come and rejoice and be glad with her, upon the prospect of her better state after the Babylonish captivity; or at least in the time of the Messiah; for though joy and gladness be the affection of the soul that works upon its union with its desirable object, and the deliverance of the people out of Babylon was not to be for many years after this, nor the Messiah to come for many years after that; yet faith being the evidence of things not seen, there is a rejoicing of hope, hope giving the soul a union with its object hoped for; and these things were now present to believers, who by faith called the things that were not as if they were, because they had the security of a Divine revelation for them, and they were already existent in their necessary causes.
Jerusalem is here set out as the mother of us all, as indeed she was; for out of Zion went forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem, Isaiah 2:3. Christ was of the seed of Abraham, he was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and is called, Romans 15:8, the minister of the circumcision: they were the olive, the branches; the Gentiles but a wild olive, grafted in amongst them, Romans 11:17; we sucked at their breasts; Christ was first preached to them; the twelve, the seventy, were all of them. The breasts of her consolations: the gospel doctrine was their breasts of consolation. Christ was in the first place.
Her glory; the glory of the people Israel, though he was also a light to lighten the Gentiles, Luke 2:32; we are required to rejoice with Jerusalem. That ye may suck, and be satisfied, &c.; intimating that our joy should not be a mere act of charity to them, but a proper expression of our sense of God’s goodness to ourselves, who should suck and be satisfied from the glad tidings of the gospel first published unto them, and ourselves be enlightened from what was at first the glory of Israel.
That this promise respects the times of the Messias seems plain, not only from the consideration that no history giveth us any account of any great or long peace or prosperity the Jews had before that time, nor indeed then, if we understand it not of a spiritual gospel
peace, which Christ preached to them that were nigh as well as to those afar off, Ephesians 2:17. It also appears from the mention of the glory of the Gentiles as a flowing stream, which can hardly be understood of any thing but Christ, and the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles. But I leave it to the issues of Providence to expound and determine whether the prophecy of this text doth not relate to a further conversion and calling of the Jews than hath yet been seen. When Christ was revealed to the Jews, not those only of the Gentiles, but those of the Jews who belonged to God’s election sucked gospel doctrine; the Gentiles were borne upon the sides of Jerusalem, and dandled upon her knees, as first hearing from the apostles, who were some of the daughters of Jerusalem, members of the Jewish church, the glad tidings of salvation.
That is, in the most tender and compassionating way imaginable; the husband doth not comfort his wife with that tenderness and those bowels that the mother comforteth the child after it hath received some fall or mischief. Jerusalem now mourneth, and you mourn with her; but she shall recover from her affliction and from her sorrows, and shall be comforted; and you that mourn for her shall partake of her joys, as you now share with her in her afflictions; God, in the day that he wipeth tears from her eyes, shall also wipe them from yours; and you shall have as great an occasion of joy from the happy, as now you have of sorrow from the afflicted, state of Jerusalem.
The peace and tranquillity of the church, and the propagation of the kingdom of Christ, is always the cause of a heart-rejoicing to such as fear God, Psalms 105:3; the reason is, because it is the greatest object of their desires, which are then satisfied, and their thoughts are then at rest; and besides they are members of the same body, so as their own bones, which before are dry and withered, Ezekiel 37:1,Ezekiel 37:2, and the sinews, and the flesh, come again upon them, and the skin covers them above, so as they
flourish like an herb in the spring, all whose verdure and beauty in the winter was concealed in the root hid in the earth.
And the hand of the Lord shall be known toward his servants; and in this the power, protection, and influence of God for, of, and upon such as truly serve and obey him shall be made manifest and known.
And his indignation toward his enemies; but the wicked shall be under a quite contrary dispensation, Psalms 1:4. As they have had a day which hath been to you the power of darkness, so you shall have a day which shall be to them the power of darkness; as God’s hand shall be upon and towards such as fear me, to cover, and bless, and influence them, so his indignation shall in that day be showed towards those of your nation who have declared themselves the enemies of the Lord.
Here the prophet comes more particularly to expound what indignation should be showed towards his enemies.
The Lord will come with fire; that is, with terrible judgments, nothing being more terrible and wasting than fire; or with fire in a proper sense, understanding it of the fire with which enemies use to consume places brought under their power. With a whirlwind; with a sudden sweeping judgment that like a whirlwind shall destroy this people.
With fury; that is, with fervour; for fury properly so taken is not in God, Isaiah 27:4, but God sometimes executes justice and judgment more smartly and severely.
His rebukes: by rebukes he means punishments, for it is said God will execute them
with flames of fire. They had contemned the rebukes of his law, now God will rebuke them with fire and sword.
This kind of rebuking is also called a pleading with them; so he threatens to plead against Gog with pestilence and blood, Ezekiel 38:22. God at first pleads with sinners by words; but if he cannot so prevail, he will plead with them in a way by which he will overcome by fire, pestilence, and blood.
With all flesh; thus he threatens to do with all sinners, or with all the wicked Jews.
The slain of the Lord shall be many; to the fire he threatens to add the sword, so as the slain of the Lord, that is, those whom God should cause to be slain, should be many.
That the Jews might not think that the judgments threatened concerned only the heathen, he tells them they concerned them, the idol worshippers amongst them; and not idolaters only, but such as broke his laws about meats, which he had prohibited them to eat. Those that sanctified and purified themselves in gardens, gardens in which they worshipped idols, Isaiah 1:29; Isaiah 65:3,Isaiah 65:4; 1 Kings 14:23; 1 Kings 15:13; the word translated gardens signifieth such as were thick planted with trees, and had groves in them, where they set their idols, 1 Kings 15:13; hence the idol is called the grove, 2 Kings 23:6; they had also in these gardens pools, where they washed themselves in a way of preparation for their idol worship, as the priest by God’s ordinance was to bathe himself, Numbers 19:7.
Behind one tree in the midst; behind one of the trees, or one by one behind the trees. Some think that Achar is here a proper name of an idol, behind which or behind whose temple these idolaters were wont to purify themselves. These gardens were places too as well for brutish lusts as idol worship, as may be learned from 1 Kings 14:24; 2 Kings 23:7, and they by these washings thought to make themselves clean.
Eating swine’ s flesh, forbidden Leviticus 11:7; Deuteronomy 14:8.
And the abomination; either any abominable things, or all those beasts forbidden the Jews for meat, Leviticus 11:9,Leviticus 11:10, &c. Some think a particular abominable thing is here meant, and think it is the weasel, which, Leviticus 11:29, is joined with the mouse, which is here next mentioned. The word which we translate mouse being no where found but there, and here, and 1 Samuel 6:4,1 Samuel 6:5,1 Samuel 6:11,1 Samuel 6:18, some think it is not that creature we call a mouse, (because a mouse is properly no creeping thing; but the word, Leviticus 11:29, signifieth a creeping thing,) they therefore think it rather signifieth some serpent. It is a matter of no great consequence. The sense is, that God would not only destroy the open and gross idolaters and superstitious persons, but all those also who had made no conscience of yielding obedience to the law of God in such things as seemed to them of a minute nature, and such as they easily might have yielded obedience to; he saith that they shall all perish together. In the day of judgment, the idolatrous pagan and papist, and the lewd anti disobedient protestant, shall fare alike. It will be a hard thing for a thinking soul to see how baptism, and a membership in the Christian church, should save men from God’s wrath, without holiness, more than circumcision and membership in the Jewish church.
The Hebrew is thus word for word. And I their works, and their thoughts, coming together all nations and languages, and they shall come and see my glory. So that it is necessary for interpreters to supply some words to make out the sense. And the sense will differ according to the nature and sense of those supplied words. We supply the verb know, as Amos 5:12; others supply. I have noted. Others make it a question; And I, should I endure their thoughts and their works? Others, But as for me, oh their works and their thoughts! Some make these words, for I know their works and their thoughts it shall come, one sentence, and to relate to the judgments before threatened, Isaiah 66:15,Isaiah 66:16, and the latter words a new sentence, and a promise of the call of the Gentiles. If we thus divide the words into two sentences, the former part doth but assert the certainty of the judgment that should come upon this people, and the confirmation or reason of it from the omniscience and justice of God. They have done these things, and I know it, and am of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. I know I have marked their thoughts and works (before mentioned). Oh the vileness of them! Should I suffer, should I endure them? No. It shall come; either the judgments before threatened shall come; or it shall come to pass, that I will cast them off, and then
I will gather all nations, & c. So it shall come may either refer to the threatening of judgments in the former part, or the promise of calling the Gentiles in the latter part of the verse. Others make the verse one entire sentence, and the sense thus, Seeing I know their works, &c., or when the time shall come that I shall let them by my vengeance know that I know their works, I will gather all nations and languages. I will gather all nations, I will call the Gentiles into my church, and they shall see my glory; my oracles, my holy institutions and ordinances, which hitherto have been locked up in the church of the Jews, Romans 3:2, and been their glory, shall be published to the Gentiles, Psalms 97:6; Isaiah 40:5.
It is on all hands agreed that this verse is a prophecy of the conversion of the Gentiles.
I will set a sign: by sign here some understand an ensign, as the word signifies, Psalms 74:4, which is a military sign to gather people together; by this may be understood Christ, Luke 2:34. See Isaiah 11:10. Or, as others, the ministry of the word attended with miracles (often called signs); these were set up among the Jews first, then among the Gentiles. Others (but less probably) understand by sign a mark of distinction, like that mentioned Ezekiel 9:4; so as, saith he, some shall escape and not be destroyed; and for those that shall escape, I will send them to Tarshish, Pul, Lud, Tubal, Javan, to Europe, Asia, and Africa, to all the quarters of the world, (see the Latin Synopsis, and the English Annotations, large discourses of these particular places,) to all nations that had never before heard of God or his true worship.
And they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles; and they shall every where preach the gospel, and set up my gospel ordinances and institutions. This was eminently made good upon the apostles leaving the Jews, and turning to the Gentiles, Acts 13:46, and more fully after the destruction of Jerusalem, when the believers among the Jews, as well as the apostles, went about publishing the gospel to all people, which was the declaring of the Lord’s glory.
Those who are the children of Abraham (not considered as the father of the Jewish nation only, but considered as the father of many nations, and as the father of the faithful, or who are the children of God, being believers, and receiving Christ, and so are your brethren, how contemptible soever you judge them) shall be brought out of all nations for an
offering to the Lord. God will have no more offerings of bullocks, and rams, or lambs, but of men and women, reasonable services, Romans 12:1; he will have an offering up of the Gentiles, Romans 15:16. And because the Gentiles are many of them far off from Jerusalem, and as yet farther off from God, Ephesians 2:17, God will find out fit means for this end, as horses, and litters, and mules, and swift beasts are, to bring men and women long journeys. And they shall be brought into the church, which began at Jerusalem; and lifts you may be assured of, for the Lord hath said it, who cannot lie nor repent. And they shall come with as much joy and gladness, with as much sincerity and holiness, as the godly Jews use and exercise when they bring their offerings in clean vessels.
Lest the Jews, being assured that the tribe of Levi, which God anciently chose to minister before him, was among them, should say, Alas, if the Gentiles should be brought in, where would they have priests or Levites? God here by his prophet tells them he would provide priests, he would take
of them, of these converted heathens. for priests and Levites, that is, for gospel ministers, to teach and to instruct people, which was the priest’s work of old, Deuteronomy 33:10; 2 Chronicles 17:7,2 Chronicles 17:9; Malachi 2:6; for they are mightily mistaken that think the priests among the Jews had nothing to do but to sacrifice and burn incense, which work is ceased. Saith the prophet, God will find amongst the converted Gentiles those who, though they be not of the tribe of Levi, or house of Aaron, yet they shall do the true work of priests and Levites.
This whole verse is only a promise of the perpetuity of the gospel church, and the not failing of the additions to it of such as shall be saved till the world shall have an end.
The new heavens and the new earth; the new state of the church to be raised up under the Messias. As I intend that shall abide, so there shall be a daily succession of true believers for the upholding of it; for if believers could fail from the earth, the church, made up of them only, as the true members of it, must fail also.
In the gospel church there shall be as constant and settled a course of worship (though of another nature) as ever was in the Jewish church. Christians are not bound to keep the Jewish sabbath or new moons, Galatians 4:10,Galatians 4:11; Colossians 2:16; but New Testament worship is often expressed by Old Testament phrases. The Jews were only obliged to appear three times in a year at Jerusalem, but (saith the prophet) the gospel church shall worship God from one
sabbath to another.
Either the Gentiles, or the sincerer part of the Jews, shall go forth from their places, or from Jerusalem, or
go out of their graves, at the last day, and look upon the vengeance I have taken upon these vile idolaters and formalists, for their satisfaction, Psalms 58:10; they shall see none of them alive, but they shall see their carcasses. For the worms that feed on their slain carcasses shall not suddenly die, and the enemy’s fire burning upon their habitations shall not go out till they be wholly consumed; and after this life, and at the day of judgment, they shall go into eternal torments; see Mark 9:44,Mark 9:46,Mark 9:48; where they will feel a worm of conscience that shall never die, and a fiery wrath of God upon their souls and bodies that shall never go out.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Isaiah 66". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24