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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 66

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

Verses 1-6

Isa 66:1-6

Isaiah 66:1-4

This chapter ends the inspiring trilogy penned by Isaiah, all of them dealing with events certain to take place in Israel in the days following the death of the great prophet, such as the destruction of their nation, their captivity, and many other events reaching all the way down to the birth of Messiah, the establishment of Christianity, the call of the Gentiles, the second destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, and even to the final judgment day itself.

All of the doodling engaged in by critics about how many authors produced these chapters, or particularly what dates should be assigned to various chapters, etc., is of no importance at all. The fundamental facts are indisputable, these being: (1) that every line of this great book was printed in the Greek language about 250 years before the Son of God was born, in what is called the Septuagint (LXX) Version. A vast number of the prophecies in Isaiah were fulfilled long after that date, absolutely destroying the critical dictum regarding the impossibility of predictive prophecy; (2) the subject matter, the vocabulary, the style, and the spirit of Isaiah dominate every paragraph of the whole prophecy; and (3) our Lord Jesus Christ and his holy apostles had the utmost respect for the whole prophecy, fight down to this very last chapter, quoting from it, by inspiration adding to it, and by attributing it repeatedly to Isaiah. In our opinion, the critical enemies of the Word of God totally discredited both themselves and their system by their vain efforts to divide and discredit Isaiah.

A summary of this chapter must be especially heeded in the interpretation of it. Adam Clarke declared that, "These last two chapters relate to the calling of the Gentiles, the establishment of the Christian church, the reprobation of the apostate Jews, and their destruction executed by the Romans." Lowth concurred in this analysis. "This final chapter points to the final days of Judah and the coming glory of Zion in the new dispensation."

Cheyne described the first five verses here as, "A declaration by Jehovah that he requires no earthly habitation, and that he is displeased with the service of unspiritual worshippers, followed by a solemn antithesis between the fate of the persecutors and the persecuted (Isaiah 66:1-5)."

The big thing in this chapter is not fleshly Israel at all, but the Church which is the New Israel. Payne understood this, writing, "Here we have a warning to Jews that, `not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel’ (Romans 9:6), and an appeal to all men, `Be not faithless, but believing’ (John 20:27)."

There were among the Jews of that period some who trusted the sanctity of the temple and the security of Zion as a guarantee of their salvation without regard to their wickedness; and these lines are directed against such thoughts.

Isaiah 66:1-4

"Thus saith Jehovah, Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: what manner of house will ye build unto me? and what place shall be my rest? For all these things hath my hand made, and so all these things came to be, saith Jehovah: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at my word. He that killeth an ox is as he that slayeth a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as he that breaketh a dog’s neck; he that offereth an oblation, as he that offereth swine’s blood; he that burneth frankincense, as he that blesseth an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations: also I will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did that which was evil in mine eyes, and chose that wherein I delighted not."

"What manner of house will ye build me? ..." (Isaiah 66:1). Some have construed this paragraph as revealing God’s displeasure with the Jewish Temple. However that may be, there is no doubt that in Israel, the more discerning souls had long been familiar with the truth that "God dwelleth not in temples made with hands." The martyr Stephen quoted this passage (Acts 7:50-51); and Solomon, upon the dedication of the temple he built, said, "Will God indeed dwell on earth? Behold, the heaven and heavens of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded" (1 Kings 8:27). Christ called it a "den of thieves and robbers"; and it will be recalled from 2 Samuel 7 that the idea of building God a temple was never God’s idea, at all, but was associated altogether with human origin in David. If it had been God’s design, he would never have commanded its destruction twice. And yet, in Haggai, we learn that God commanded the rebuilding of the temple, that, no doubt, being due to the fact that, in their condition, they needed such a device, because of their fanatical preference for such things.

"He that killeth an ox, as he that slew a man ..." (Isaiah 66:3).

This means that a man who is without poverty of spirit and not having a contrite heart who offers an ox, "is not any more pleasing to God than a murderer would be." The following major clauses in Isaiah 66:3-4, are reiterations of the same thought in different terminology.

Kelley pointed out that there is another interpretation of this passage, making it, "The most violent rejection of the Temple cultus to be found in the Old Testament. It places the sacrifice of an ox, etc., on the parity with the murder of a man." We reject this view, because God could not have been but pleased with one who offered an ox as a sacrifice, if offered from an humble and contrite heart and according to the Law of Moses. In our studies of the prophets, we have frequently encountered the writings of scholars who try to make it out that God cared nothing for the observance of forms, sacrifices and ceremonies, but only for "social justice." This is a false view. What God condemned was insincere and hypocritical worship. God indeed is concerned for "social justice"; but, in the final analysis, all moral and social justice derives from the holy commandments of God, properly honored, respected, and obeyed.

Isaiah 66:5-6

"Hear the word of Jehovah, ye that tremble at his word: Your brethren that hate you, and cast you out for my name’s sake, have said, Let Jehovah be glorified, that we may see your joy; but it is they that shall be put to shame. A voice of tumult from the city, a voice from the temple, a voice of Jehovah that rendereth recompense to his enemies."

An outstanding thing here is that, "These verses presuppose a schism within the Jewish community, with the faithful believers being persecuted and cast out by their own brethren." There is nothing new about this development; throughout Isaiah, the two Israels of God have been clearly visible.

This prophecy, without any doubt, applies to the total destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish temple by the Romans in 70 A.D., whether or not there might have been earlier applications. The mention of the temple, however, points strongly to the Roman destruction. Kelley also observed that the voice of Jehovah coming from the temple "emphasized that those being judged were the Israelites." This, of course, is true. That destruction signaled the end of the Jewish nation for a period of about two millenniums, a cessation forever of the daily sacrifices, the total and final destruction of their temple, the end of their government, and the physical death of more than a million of the people. There is no wonder that Peter referred to that event as "the end of all things" (1 Peter 4:7); and as far as the Jewish Dispensation was concerned, it surely was!

"These verses are an address to the pious and persecuted part of the nation (that is, the righteous remnant); and it is designed for their comfort and consolation, and contains the assurance that God would appear in their behalf." In that terrible destruction of Jerusalem to which we have applied the passage, God did indeed appear upon behalf of the saints; and he made it possible for every Christian to escape with his life, before the city was ravaged.

Isaiah’s reference here to brothers persecuting brothers, "Is one of the earliest allusions to purely religious persecution and theological hatred. The intolerance of Isaiah 66:5 was acted out, almost to the letter, in John 9:24; John 9:34," in the record of the man born blind.

What we have in these verses is a continuation of what Isaiah wrote in Isaiah 13.

Isaiah 66:1-3 ABOMINABLE: Chapter 66 contains a three-part summarization of the whole book of Isaiah. First there is capsulation of the abomination of Isaiah’s contemporaries and the coming judgment (Isaiah 66:1-6); second, the birth of new Israel (messianic age—church) (Isaiah 66:7-14); third, the proclamation of redemption to the whole world (Isaiah 66:15-24). These are the three major theses of the prophet and thus chapter 66 forms an appropriate epilogue.

These verses are not condemnations of houses of worship as such, nor were they intended to abrogate animal sacrifices for Isaiah’s contemporaries. The prophet is condemning the arrogant hypocrisy of those who thought an earthly temple guaranteed the presence of Jehovah in their midst regardless of the wickedness of their motives and actions. Many of the Jews fell into the dangerous self-induced delusion that as long as their temple stood Jehovah must confine Himself there so their nation would never be without His presence and protection. This delusion is a consequence of spiritual immaturity and this-worldly-mindedness about the worship of God. Most of the Jewish rulers and religious leaders of Jesus’ day trusted in their earthly temple, human priesthood and animal sacrifices but not in the Invisible God who made them. It is a common failure of human nature to demand that which can be “handled, touched and tasted” (cf. Colossians 2:20-23; 2 Corinthians 4:16 to 2 Corinthians 5:5, etc.). When the Pharisees of Jesus day wanted to make an oath by the highest thing they could think of, they made it on the temple or the gold of the temple (cf. Matthew 23:16-21). When Jesus predicted the desolation of the city and the temple (Matthew 23:37-39), His own disciples could not believe it, so He gave an extended lesson to them about the destruction of Jerusalem (Matthew 24:1-35) at the hands of the Romans. The fundamental issue of the entire book of Hebrews in the N.T. is that of “weaning” Hebrew Christians away from the powerful temptation to return to Judaism (abrogated by the new covenant) which appealed to the fleshly desire for a religion that centered in an earthly temple, touchable sacrifices, visible high-priesthood and religious hierarchy. Stephen, the martyr, condemned his Jewish brethren for not accepting the fact that Jesus was the fulfillment of all the temple stood for (Acts 7:44-53). The Jews were not alone in thinking the Creator could be reduced to human level and confined to earthly shrines. Paul reminded the idolaters of Athens that such ideas were illogical (cf. Acts 17:24-28). Young aptly says, “Those who would build a house influenced by such conceptions were seeking to render the infinite finite, the eternal temporal, and the Creator a mere creature.”

Jehovah does dwell in a spiritual temple composed of people (cf. Ephesians 2:11-22; 2 Peter 2:5) of afflicted and contrite hearts. The Hebrew word ‘anah is translated poor but means literally, afflicted. It is from a root word that may also be translated answer. The idea is that God dwells in people who are poor in spirit or afflicted in the soul enough to answer God when He calls. God’s presence dwells in a people who are humble and penitent, whether they have a “church building” or not. But the most elaborate building and the best well-organized religious system will never enjoy the presence of God if haughty, arrogant, independent and rebellious worshipers gather there. True worship of God is done in spirit and truth (John 4:19-26) and where God is worshiped is secondary to that! When truth and righteousness are renounced for the sake of places, things and human traditions, it is an abomination before the Lord!

Rituals and ceremonies are means to an end; they are vehicles of human expressions of faith and willing obedience to a Person—God. When the rituals and ceremonies become the objects of our hope, they become idols! God Himself is the object of our hope; biblical commandments concerning acts of obedience or rituals or worship are revealed as acceptable ways men may express their faith in Him. There are two ways men turn biblically revealed rituals into abominations before the Lord: (a) make the rituals the object of their hope, or; (b) refuse to observe the ritual as the Lord commands it in His Word. The people of Isaiah’s day were guilty of both. They were making their ability to keep the rituals the object of their hope which is trusting in self-righteousness, and they were also arrogantly mixing the practices of pagan idolatry with the worship of Jehovah. Sacrifices to God, no matter how often or how affluent, without the proper spirit and contrary to revealed truth are unacceptable to God (cf. Isaiah 1:10-20; Ezekiel 8:5-18; Ezekiel 14:1-11; 1 Samuel 15:17-23; Isaiah 57:1-13; Micah 3:11; Matthew 5:23-24; Matthew 6:1-18; etc.). Observance of rituals contrary to biblical specifications and without humility toward the God who commanded them makes them abominations to God. A man may kill an ox and bring it to the temple for a sacrifice, but with an improper attitude toward God he may as well have offered a human sacrifice—both are equally abominable to God! Do men really realize how serious it is to observe religious ritual in an improper frame of mind and heart?! To give an offering or do any act of worship without a contrite heart is an affront to the Lord and as insulting as offering swine’s blood! Such impersonal, rebellious, impenitent behavior exposes the real focus of the heart of a man—the ritual itself—and that is in fact, idolatry! Even people of the new covenant must be on guard against this tendency. Ananias and Sapphira fell—not in the amount given or not given to the Lord, but in the attitude they had in their heart (cf. Acts 5:1 ff). Simon, the converted magician, fell—not in what he sought but the purpose for which he sought it (cf. Acts 8:9-13). Even the Corinthian church made the Lord’s Supper an abomination before the Lord by the attitude of divisiveness in which they participated in it (cf. 1 Corinthians 10-11). The church at Laodicea was an abomination to Christ—not because she was affluent but because of her attitude toward her affluency.

Men will err and sin. Those who worship God will never be able to do so perfectly. The Lord will forgive those errors when men worship Him penitently, honestly and “trembling at His Word.” But when men deliberately choose their own ways against those God has plainly revealed, and when they “delight” in doing what they know is contrary to His revealed will, He will not forgive.

Isaiah 66:4-6 ABANDONED: What choice do men leave the Righteous and Just God when they delight in their abominations? The only choice God has is to leave them to their choice! God chooses their delusions as the instruments of their judgment. When God called and called, none were poor (‘anah) enough in spirit to answer. When God spake, none obeyed (shama’). They plainly told God they did not want to hear from Him (cf. Isaiah 30:9-11; Micah 2:6-11, etc.). They obstinately chose their own way against God’s (cf. Jeremiah 6:16-18; Jeremiah 8:4-7, etc.). So the Lord let them have what they chose! The Lord abandoned them to their sins (cf. Ezekiel 11:21-25; Ezekiel 39:23-24, etc.). They are given up to suffer in their own bodies the due penalties of their errors (cf. Romans 1:27). Judah trusted in human schemes and human allies to keep her safe and prosperous, but her human allies betrayed her and turned on her. Judah’s idol gods could not provide anything for her because they were only pieces of wood and stone. Judah’s social injustices and political chicanery on the international scene eventually caused her captivity. But it-was Jehovah who was exercising His sovereign rule in righteousness over the universe that was the real cause of it. God exercises His sovereign rule through secondary agents both in men and natural means (cf. Isaiah 10:5-19; Jeremiah 27:1-11; Amos 4:6-11; Habakkuk 1:5-6; Daniel 8:1 ff; Revelation 6:1-17; Revelation 8:1 to Revelation 9:21; Revelation 17:15-18, etc.).

In verse five, the Lord addresses Himself to those few people who were listening to the teaching of Isaiah (cf. Isaiah 8:16 ff) and being persecuted for their faithfulness. The majority of the people hated the righteous remnant. God’s righteous minority will alway be persecuted by the wicked majority because their righteousness acts as a catalyst of judgment in their midst (cf. John 3:18-21; John 9:35-40; John 15:18-27, etc.). The righteous minority of Isaiah’s day had been “cast out” which probably means the haughty, self-righteous majority had ostracized them socially, religiously economically and politically. The poor and humble in spirit and those obedient to the Word of God were oppressed and exploited. The rich and powerful wicked mock them as they oppress them, saying, “Since you are so anxious to praise the name of Jehovah and call on Him for help, we will give you plenty of opportunity to call on Him by casting you out.” Such perverse haughtiness in a people who had all the advantages of the miraculous deliverance of God from enemies centuries past and who had the Law of God delivered by angels through Moses, is shocking! It is blasphemous! But such mockery of God’s saints in the midst of their persecutions will continue so long as this present order exists. All who live a godly life in this world will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). But God’s vindication of His saints will be done—if not in this world, in the next!

As for those of Isaiah’s day who were persecuting the righteous, they would themselves be cast out and suffer shame and humiliation for their disobedience to God in the Babylonian captivity. But Isaiah is looking past his own time by many centuries and hears the noise of warfare that comes from Jerusalem, the city that the wicked majority believed would never fall (Micah 3:11; Jeremiah 6:13-14; Jeremiah 8:11; Jeremiah 26:7-11; Jeremiah 28:1-17). Isaiah’s prediction of Jerusalem’s judgment refers to her fall at the hands of Rome (70 A.D.) as will be seen from the following text.

Verses 7-9

Isa 66:7-9

Isaiah 66:7-9

"Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man-child. Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall a land be born in one day? shall a nation be brought forth at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children. Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? saith Jehovah: shall I that cause to bring forth shut the womb? saith God."

The student should not be confused with the profusion of Old Testament terminology throughout the remainder of this chapter. Such things as the temple, animal sacrifices, new moons, sabbaths, etc., clearly concerned the Old dispensation; but, "Isaiah 66:7-9 clearly concern the end-time." Such expressions as "Who hath heard such a thing"? stress the newness of what is being revealed here.

The rapidity of the rise and expansion of Christianity "Will mock the slow processes of history." This is prophesied by the metaphor of birth without travail. This was fulfilled, "By the far-flung commonwealth of the Christian Church springing up all over the Roman empire in a single generation."

"She was delivered of a man-child ..." (Isaiah 66:7). The oldest Christian understanding of this passage identifies it with the birth of the Christ. "This was the position of Jerome"; and we have never seen any improvement on that view. The New Testament quotation of the word man-child (Revelation 12:5) from Isaiah 66:7 requires our understanding of this as a reference to this designation; but the New Testament references have a double emphasis on the masculinity of the child, "a son, a man child." Alexander Campbell translated it, "She bore a masculine son." Albertus Pieters rendered the words, "A son, a he-man, a fierce assertion of the virility of Christ." The words give the lie to the pretended artistic representations of Jesus Christ, always showing our Lord as a weak, effeminate-looking homosexual! The mother in this analogy is the Jewish race, fulfilling God’s promise to Abraham (Genesis 12:3), as proved by Matthew 1:1.

Isaiah 66:7-9 MIRACULOUS: That the pain and travail of verse six predicts the Roman destruction of Jerusalem is evident from what follows in these verses (Isaiah 66:7-14). Isaiah’s prediction here of the birth of a new nation on the ruins of the old closely parallels the predictions of Daniel (see our comments on Daniel 9:24-27) who also looks forward to the Roman destruction of Jerusalem.

The point of verses seven through nine is to emphasize the miraculous nature of what God is going to do before He casts off old Zion finally and completely (at the Roman destruction). Before the Old covenant nation is destroyed, the “manchild” and the New covenant nation will be born. The manchild can be none other than the son and child of Isaiah 9:6 and Immanuel of Isaiah 7:14. He is the Messiah (the anointed prince of Daniel 9:25). The manchild of Isaiah 66:7 is the same, we believe, as the manchild born of the woman in Revelation 12:1-6. In the Revelation John sees the O.T. woman (faithful members of the Old covenant people) give birth to the manchild, the great red dragon (the devil) attempting to devour the manchild, and God catching the manchild up to heaven safe and secure. Just as in Isaiah 66:8, so in Revelation 12, the woman has a plurality of offspring or children. Of course, these children are joint-heirs with the only-unique Son (manchild) by adoption. He is the seed (singular, Galatians 3:16) and they are offspring (plural, Galatians 3:23-29, by adoption).

Old Jerusalem will produce the manchild and the offspring before her travail comes upon her. By a series of rhetorical questions Isaiah emphasizes the uniqueness of the predicted birth of the new nation. Who ever heard of a new nation from an old nation before the old nation passes away? But even more unknown is the birth of a nation in one day! The Hebrew word pa’am is translated at once but means literally, at one stroke, as with one stroke of a hammer. A “land” and a “nation” was brought forth with one stroke of God on the Day of Pentecost, June, A.D. 30. Isaiah’s figurative use of “land” should help us understand that much of what he (and other prophets, especially, Ezekiel) says about the future of God’s “land” refers to the messianic “land” (or church), (cf. Ezekiel 37:15-28; ch. 45–48, etc.).

The guarantee of all this is that Jehovah started it (with Abraham) and He will most certainly carry it through. When God promises, He fulfills. God does not lie; He is not a man that He repents or changes His mind or will. God’s new nation (the Church) will be born; nothing will stop it (cf. Daniel 2:44-45). Not even the gates of Hades (death) shall prevail against the birth of God’s church (cf. Matthew 16:18). God’s new nation will be like no other nation ever on the face of the earth. Governments and cultures of human origin come and go, but God’s nation (kingdom) will incorporate all races, tongues, cultures and classes, and will last forever. His kingdom is supernatural!

Verses 10-14

Isa 66:10-14

Isaiah 66:10-14

"Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad for her; rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn over her; that ye may suck and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations; that ye may milk out, and be delighted with the abundance of her glory. For thus saith Jehovah, Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream: and ye shall suck thereof; ye shall be borne upon the side, and shall be dandled upon the knees. As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem. And ye shall see it, and you r heart shall rejoice, and your bones shall flourish like the tender grass: and the hand of Jehovah shall be known toward his servants; and he will have indignation against his enemies."

Kidner called this "an exuberant family scene," describing the joys and consolations of the "Jerusalem that is above, which is our mother" (Galatians 4:26).

"Ye shall be borne upon the side ..." (Isaiah 66:12). This is a reference to the custom of mothers to carry their little ones upon the hip. All of the scenes described here are intimate and tender references to motherhood. "Direct fellowship with God and full involvement in His church" are depicted here. Certainly, the old Jerusalem is not in this place at all.

Isaiah 66:10-14 MATERNAL: Isaiah continues the figure of a mother and her child. He pictures the citizens of the new Zion as hungry children contentedly nursing from the breasts of their mother. Zion’s children drink deeply (“milk out”) until they are completely satisfied. In contrast to those who rebel against God, who can never be satisfied (cf. Isaiah 65:13-14; Isaiah 9:20; Micah 6:14-15), new Zion will be satisfied (cf. Jeremiah 31:14; Isaiah 25:6-9; Isaiah 55:1-3; Isaiah 58:11, etc.). Citizens of new Zion learn to be content (cf. Philippians 4:10-13; 1 Timothy 6:6-8); they have the peace which passes all understanding (cf. Philippians 4:4-7). It is interesting that this contentment, satisfaction, glory and peace which shall belong to new Zion comes to those in her who rejoice and mourn. It seems incongruous to talk of rejoicing and mourning at the same time. Yet the Lord pronounced those blessed who mourned (cf. Matthew 5:4). Only those who believe in the Lord can comprehend this. Those who think that rejoicing can only come when there is nothing over which to mourn do not understand the meaning of joy as Jesus taught it (cf. John 15:1-11; John 16:20-24; John 16:33; John 17:13-19, etc.). It is possible for the citizens of Zion to mourn over sin and all that results from it and at the same time rejoice in the salvation and future vindication of the Lord. When the citizen of Zion is able to do this he is at peace. Peace means wholeness (cf. comments Isaiah 58:9) and Jehovah is going to fill new Zion’s “land” up and running over with wholeness, prosperity and goodness like a river fills up and runs over its banks. Zion’s wholeness will come as a result of the best of goiym (nations) being brought to her, (cf. our comments Isaiah 61:5-7). Is there anything more tender and helpful than the comfort a mother gives a distressed child? Nothing except the comfort of God! But our God helps us understand His feeling toward us and His ability to comfort us in the highest experience of comfort we know—that of our mothers (cf. Isaiah 49:15-16; Isaiah 60:4, etc.). Jesus expressed His tenderness toward Jerusalem often (cf. Matthew 23:37-39; Luke 19:41-44, etc.).

Those addressed in Isaiah 66:14 as those who shall see these things are those who shall actually experience them, i.e., those who became the “nation brought forth” at one stroke (verses seven-nine). That generation alive when the Messiah was born (the manchild) and when the nation was brought forth (at Pentecost, A.D. 30), experienced the miracle of God and the maternalness of God (cf. Luke 1:67-79; Luke 2:29-38; Luke 24:13-53; Acts 2:43-47; Acts 3:17 to Acts 4:4; Acts 4:32-37, etc.). The hand of Jehovah was seen and acknowledged in all this, not only by those who believed and became followers of the Way, but also by some who did not follow (cf. Acts 5:27-42; Acts 26:28; Acts 28:1 ff, etc.). Not only will the redemptive hand and the providential hand of Jehovah be manifested in the birth of new Zion, but His judgmental hand will also be made known. It is the double-emphasis theme that runs throughout the biblical record of redemption. Whenever God redeems the faithful, He necessarily judges the unfaithful. God cannot reward righteousness without condemning unrighteousness. When He delivered Noah, He destroyed the world; when He saved Lot, He destroyed Sodom; when He delivered the Hebrews under Moses, He destroyed Pharaoh; when He delivered Israel from captivity, He did so by destroying Babylon. The redemption provided in the atonement of Christ and the establishment of the kingdom, pronounces and gives unequivocal evidence of the final judgment of all who will not surrender to His sovereign rule by becoming covenant members of His church, (cf. John 12:31; John 16:11; Jn. 17:31; Ephesians 4:8; Colossians 2:15; Hebrews 2:14-15; 1 John 3:8; Revelation 19:15-16, etc.). God allowed His enemies (Satan and his kingdom) to gather all the power at their disposal and meet Him at Calvary and do battle there. It was at Calvary and the empty tomb that God redeemed the world and judged the world—potentially. Those who wish the redemption He won for them there must appropriate it by accepting His new covenant terms. Those who do not wish it must accept His judgment. The final execution of His redemption and judgment is yet future, but just as certain as the cross and the empty tomb!

Verses 15-17

Isa 66:15-17

Isaiah 66:15-17

"For, behold, Jehovah will come with fire, and his chariots shall be like the whirlwind; to render his anger with fierceness, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire will Jehovah execute judgment, and by his sword, upon all flesh; and the slain of Jehovah shall be many. They that sanctify themselves and purify themselves to go unto the gardens, behind one in the midst, eating swine’s flesh, and the abominations, and the mouse, they shall come to an end together, saith Jehovah."

"Jehovah will come with fire ..." (Isaiah 66:15). This is a reference to the final judgment of God upon the rebellious race of Adam. The prophet Zephaniah devoted his prophecy largely to this event; and Paul and Peter both stressed the "fire" of that Great Day.

"You that are afflicted rest with us at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power in flaming fire, rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus: who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction, from the face of the Lord and form the glory of his might" (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).

The heavens that now are, and the earth, by the same word have been stored up for fire, being reserved against the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men (2 Peter 3:7 ff).

The Adamic race is on a collision course with disaster, due to their rejection of God and their preference for wickedness; and in these verses, we have the inspired account of how Almighty God will deal with the situation. His promises are certain to be fulfilled.

"That sanctify themselves ... to go unto the gardens, behind one in the midst ..." (Isaiah 66:17). This refers to the people who rebelled against God’s Word and worshipped after the pagan rites of the old Canaanite fertility cults, "behind one in the midst." On these words, Wardle noted that, "This means that they followed the actions of `one in the midst,’ probably a leader of the ceremonies (Ezekiel 8:11); and in the mystic meals, they ate food regarded by the Law as unclean."

Isaiah 66:15-17 DESTRUCTION OF THE OLD: We repeat, for emphasis, this chapter (66) is an epilogue. First, judgment upon Israel for disobeying the Old covenant (Isaiah 66:1-6); second, promise of a new Israel and a new order (Isaiah 66:7-14); third, building the new order by destroying the old and opening up citizenship in the New order to the whole world (Isaiah 66:15-24). J. A. Alexander, in Commentary on the Prophecies of Isaiah, pub. Zondervan, says these verses are “. . . an integral part of the ‘great argument’ with which the whole book has been occupied, and which the Prophet never loses sight of to the end of the last sentence. The grand theme of these prophecies . . . is the relation of God’s people to himself and to the world, and in the latter stages of its history, to that race with which it was once outwardly identical. The great catastrophe with which the vision closes is the change of dispensations, comprehending the final abolition of the ceremonial law, and its concomitants, the introduction of a spiritual worship and the consequent diffusion of the Church, its vast enlargement by the introduction of all Gentile converts to complete equality of privilege and honor with the believing Jews, and the excision of the unbelieving Jews from all connection with the church or chosen people, which they once imagined to have no existence independent of themselves.”

The emphasis of this final prophecy is on the establishment of the New messianic age and the gathering of the Gentiles into covenant relationship. In order to establish its fulfillment the Old order must be abrogated. The abrogation of the Old and the establishment of the New are coincidental—they are to occur at the same time, i.e., within a generation (cf. Matthew 24:34). The generation of the apostles (Peter, James, John, etc.) did not pass away until God had abrogated the Old order and instituted the New!

God’s judgments are appropriately likened unto fire. Fire fiercely consumes (cf. Hebrews 12:29; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8, etc.). and is often representative of torment and punishment (cf. Luke 16:24; Revelation 14:10-11). Jehovah abrogated the Old order, in fact, at the cross of Christ (cf. Colossians 2:14-15; Hebrews 9:15-28, etc.). That was when God judged both the Mosaic system and all other human (Gentile) systems through which men tried to earn righteousness before Him. All human governments, religions, and ideologies are essentially human rebellions against the rule of God. They were all judged, exposed as inadequate, and destroyed in the power they might exercise over men at Calvary and the Empty Tomb. All human deviations from faith in God through His promised Son are idolatrous. They all fall under the generalized picture of abomination in Isaiah 66:17. They all “came to an end together” in God’s great redemptive-judgmental work in Jerusalem, 30 A.D., when Old Jerusalem had run its course and used up the time allotted to it (cf. Daniel 9:24-27). When the Suffering Servant had made atonement for sin and was raised from the dead destroying the ultimate power of the devil, Israel was to turn to Jehovah and accept citizenship in New Zion (the church). Some did, but a majority did not. Jehovah, in His longsuffering allowed the Jewish nation to retain its city and temple for another 40 years (until 70 A.D.), and then, by His own providential design He allowed the city and the temple to be destroyed and burned and the nation dispersed over the face of the earth by the Roman empire. Thus the fire of God’s judgment fell both literally and figuratively upon the Old order and consumed it.

Verses 18-24

Isa 66:18-24

Isaiah 66:18-21

"For I know their works and their thoughts: the time cometh, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come, and shall see my glory. And I will set a sign among them, and I will send such as escape of them unto the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow to Tubal and Javan, to the isles afar off, that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the nations. And they shall bring all your brethren out of all the nations for an oblation unto Jehovah, upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, saith Jehovah, as the children of Israel bring their oblation in a clean vessel into the house of Jehovah. And of them also will I take for priests and for Levites, saith Jehovah."

Following the terrible picture of the judgment in Isaiah 66:15-17, this paragraph returns to the glory of the New Dispensation, the rescue of the righteous remnant of Israel who, after accepting Christ, appear here as missionaries of the Gospel to the "ends of the earth," as did Paul and others. The names of Tarshish, Pul, and Lud here, the actual location of which is not known, merely indicate the worldwide preaching of the Gospel. It was in Paul’s plans to go to Spain (where Tarshish was located); and presumably he made the journey.

The proof of the focus in this paragraph is God’s promise here that priests of God will be enrolled from among the Gentiles. This came to pass in the designation of all Christians as "kings and priests unto God" (Revelation 1:6; 1 Peter 2:5-6).

"And I will set a sign among them ..." (Isaiah 66:19). The only "sign" that our Lord ever gave to the unbelieving Jews was "The sign of the prophet Jonah, that like as Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights, so shall the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights" (Matthew 12:39-40), in short, the Resurrection of Christ! We believe those writers are wrong who refer this promise to some miraculous wonder that Christ is supposed to perform at the beginning of the Millennium. The miracle of His Resurrection appeared at the beginning of the real Millennium, namely the Christian Dispensation.

"They shall bring all your brethren from all the nations ..." (Isaiah 66:20). "The middle wall of partition has been broken down (Ephesians 2:14). Gentiles from all the nations will be brought with redeemed Jews (from that righteous remnant) as brethren, as one new man, unto Jehovah." There is no longer any distinction whatever in the sight of God between Jews and Gentiles.

The scene here of all nations making pilgrimages to Jerusalem to worship God should not be misunderstood. Christians are not come, nor shall they ever come, "Unto a mount that might be touched (nor to a city that can be touched) ... but ye `Christians’ are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem ... to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant" (Hebrews 12:18-24). It is a tragic misinterpretation to find in this glorious prophecy the restoration of the old Jerusalem, the rebuilding of the temple, and other things sometimes erroneously imported into these verses!

Isaiah 66:22-24

"For as the new heavens and the earth which I will make, shall remain before me, saith Jehovah, so shall your seed and your name remain. And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith Jehovah. And they shall go forth and look upon the dead bodies of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh."

Rawlinson mentioned that Isaiah 66:22 is usually taken to be a promise of some special pre-eminence of the Jew over the Gentile in the final kingdom of the redeemed; but Paul noted that all such privileges were already abolished in his day (Colossians 3:11). In this connection, see also our extended remarks on this at the end of Isaiah 62.

"Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched ..." (Isaiah 66:24). There can be no doubt that the reference here is to the eternal punishment that shall be the destiny of the wicked at the judgment. The most important comment on this verse ever made was made by Christ himself.

"It is good for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell; where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9:47-48).

Some interpreters have referred to the statement about the worms and the fire as applicable only to the dead corpses which are presented here as part of the final judgment scene; but, as Dummelow noted, "The thought also includes the torment of the ungodly in hell, which seems to have the sanction of our Lord’s teaching (Mark 9:48)."

As Hailey and others have pointed out, the magnificent trilogy of these final twenty-seven chapters concludes all three divisions of it with a word to the wicked. "In the first two, we have in Isaiah 48:22, and in Isaiah 57:20, `There is no peace to the wicked.’ And here an even darker picture portrays the destruction of sinners."

Many scholars have reached the conclusion of their studies of this incredibly beautiful and powerful prophecy with feelings of deep emotion and thanksgiving; and this writer also must confess his deep emotion of gratitude and thanksgiving that God has now granted the reaching of another milestone in our studies of his precious Word.

God’s blessing in the giving of sufficient strength and health for the task is a source of utmost joy and thanksgiving. Just a year ago from August of 1989, when these lines are being written, it appeared that I would never be able to walk again. How merciful God has been, and how thankful I am for the tender care and concern of my wife Thelma who guided me to a measure of health sufficient for these labors. I do not feel capable of writing a sufficient testimonial to the blessings and mercies of God’s grace in such things; and therefore, as Albert Barnes did so long ago, I shall borrow the following words from Vitringa:

"I am now deeply affected and prostrate before God’s throne, giving humble thanks to God the Father through His Son Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, for the grace and light with which he endowed me, his unworthy servant, in completing the commentary on Isaiah, praying earnestly that God will pardon those errors into which inadvertently I may have fallen, and also that God will use this work, such as it is, to the glory of his name and the use of his church, and the consolation of God’s people; and unto Him be the glory throughout all ages, world without end. Amen."

Isaiah 66:18-24 DEVELOPMENT OF THE NEW: Concurrent to the judgment of the Old order, Jehovah will establish the New order. The phrase “time cometh” connects the judgment of those who shall come to an end together and the “gathering of all nations and tongues” to see His glory. All nations would see God’s glory in the two-fold accomplishment of the destruction of the Old and establishment of the New. Jehovah’s historical signal that He was fulfilling His promises made through the prophets about all this was the Messiah! All who saw Jehovah’s signal that human systems were overthrown believed in the Christ and were saved (“escaped”) from that perverse generation (cf. Acts 2:40). These “escaped” ones (the Jews who became Christians at Pentecost and soon thereafter) were sent by the Lord unto the nations (Gentiles) where they announced the great historical events of redemption which glorified God. Perhaps some of the early Gentile converts (e.g., Cornelius) were also among the “sent” ones. Tarshish, if our conjecture is right, is Spain (at the extreme west of the Great Sea); Pul is probably Put in North Africa (the extreme southern boundary); Lud is probably Lydia in Asia Minor (northern boundary); and Tubal and Javan are Armenia and Greece respectively (generally forming a northern boundary). These nations are mentioned to emphasize the extreme distances to which the escapees shall be sent with their declaration of the glory of Jehovah.

Those escapees who are sent are going to bring “brethren out of all the nations.” Apparently the apostle Paul had this scripture in mind when he referred to his ministry of bringing the Gentiles to Christ as an offering unto God (cf. Romans 15:16). The prophet’s designation of goiym from all nations being brought forth as “brethren” of the covenant people is unique! Many of the prophets predicted that the Gentiles would one day be brought to Jehovah, but none (save in this one place) referred to them as “brethren”! The reference to various beasts of burden and vehicles of transportation pictorializes the ease, swiftness and splendor in which the Gentiles will be brought to the Lord. The “holy mountain” is a favorite phrase of Isaiah to designate the messianic age (cf. Isaiah 2:1-4; Isaiah 11:9; Isaiah 56:7; Isaiah 57:3; Isaiah 65:11; Isaiah 65:25, etc.).

From the Gentiles Jehovah will take “priests and Levites.” In the New age (the church) all citizens are priests (cf. 1 Peter 2:5; 1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6; Revelation 5:10, etc.). This may have a more specific reference, however, to the special ministry of those “sent” (even of early Gentile converts) to the extreme boundaries of civilization to “bring brethren out of all the nations.” In other words, it may refer to Gentile converts chosen especially by God as ministers and missionaries to declare the glory of God, e.g., Timothy, Luke, Cornelius and others.

The next verses (22–24) emphasize the finality and perpetuity of the establishment of the New order and the judgment of the Old order. We have already established our view that the term “new heavens and new earth” as Isaiah uses it means the New Order (the messianic age) (cf. Isaiah 65:17 ff). The prophets talk of a whole new age to come when the Servant of Jehovah appears:

a. There shall be new things told by God (Isaiah 42:9; Isaiah 48:6-7).

b. God’s people will sing a new song (Isaiah 42:10).

c. God will make a completely new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31 ff).

d. God will put a new heart and spirit in men (Ezekiel 18:31; Ezekiel 36:26).

e. They will have a new name (Isaiah 62:2).

There are many other references to the newness of the age to follow the old one where the word new is not specified but inferred. Just as this new creation will be God’s final covenant and just as this new order will last forever, so those who enter into the covenant will be His people forever. That was prophesied by Hosea (Hosea 2:16-23; Hosea 3:5) and fulfilled according to the apostles (Romans 9:24-33; 1 Peter 2:9-10). The name God gives His New Covenant people will remain upon them forever (cf. Revelation 2:17; Revelation 3:12; Revelation 14:1; Revelation 22:4). Old Israel with its old covenant, old name, and old institutions shall pass away (cf. Jeremiah 3:15-18) and not even be remembered! But from the old will spring the remnant that survives God’s casting off, and together with the remnant will be a great gathering of Gentiles to form the true Israel of God which is a “new creation” (cf. Galatians 6:15-16)!

Isaiah was a preacher-prophet to the people of the Old dispensation. He must communicate his message about the New dispensation in terminology and forms to which those of the old dispensation could relate. So, using the terminology of “new moon and sabbath,” Isaiah predicts that in the new order there will be faithful, regular, worship of God which will be pleasing to Him. This brief picture of worship in the new dispensation given by Isaiah is dramatically paralleled and expanded in Ezekiel, chapters 40–48, and in Zechariah 14:16-21. Isaiah 66:23 is Isaiah’s picture of the situation with new Zion after its creation. Isaiah 66:24 is the prophet’s description of the relationship of the New, true worshipers, to what they see concerning the Old dispensation which has been judged and destroyed or abrogated. The New citizens of Zion are safe within her walls, worshiping Jehovah gladly and truly. Occasionally New Zion’s citizens “look upon the dead bodies” of those who have transgressed against Jehovah and the sight of His judgment upon the sinners reminds Zion of the greatness of its redemption and the awful terror of God’s punishment from which she has been saved. The undying worm and the unquenchable fire is figurative use of Gehenna where the Jews disposed of dead carcasses of criminals.

Christians witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and were reminded of the fate of all who disobey God and reject His Son and warned that a similar fate awaits an unbelieving world when Jesus comes back to earth at the end of time (Matthew 24:1-51). New Zion is directed to “look upon the dead” Roman culture of the first and second centuries (Romans 1:18-32; Revelation, chapters Revelation 17:1 to Revelation 20:6) and rejoice for salvation while also being warned against partaking in Rome ’s sin.

Isaiah’s pictorialization of the great judgment of God upon impenitent Israel and the founding of a new order upon the ashes of the old has parallels: (a) the great battle of Gog and Magog and the new land, city and temple of Ezekiel, chapters 38–48; (b) the great battle in the valley of Jehoshaphat and the escape of those who call upon the name of the Lord in Joel 2:28 to Joel 3:21; (c) the battle and victory the “king” will win, the purging of the land, and the practice of purified worship depicted in Zechariah 9:9 to Zechariah 14:21. So Isaiah closes his great prophecy predicting, not the end of time but the end of the Old dispensation and the creation by God of a New dispensation. Isaiah is predicting the first coming of the Messiah and the establishment of the Messiah’s kingdom, the church, not the second coming of the Messiah.

Essentially Isaiah’s message is that God’s great plan to redeem the world involves the incarnation of the Word in the person of the Suffering Servant; the atonement for sin by the Servant; the offering of a new covenant relationship of grace through faith; the incorporation into that covenant relationship and the formation of a New Zion from all in the world who will believe and accept its terms; the judgment and punishment forever of all who will not accept it.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Isaiah 66". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/isaiah-66.html.
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