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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 66

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

Introduction

Isaiah 66:0

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASBNKJVNRSVTEVNJB
Heaven Is God's ThroneTrue Worship and FalseConcluding OraclesThe Lord Judges the NationsProphecy On the Temple
Isaiah 66:1-2(1-2)Isaiah 66:1-2(1-2)Isaiah 66:1-2(1-2)Isaiah 66:1-2(1-2)Isaiah 66:1-2(1-2)
Hypocrisy Rebuked
Isaiah 66:3-6(3-6)Isaiah 66:3-4(3-4)Isaiah 66:3-5(3-5)Isaiah 66:3-4(3-4)Isaiah 66:3-4(3-4)
The Lord Vindicates Zion Judgment On Jerusalem
Isaiah 66:5(5) Isaiah 66:5-6(5-6)Isaiah 66:5(5)
Isaiah 66:6(6)Isaiah 66:6(6) Isaiah 66:6(6)
Isaiah 66:7-9(7-9)Isaiah 66:7-9(7-9)Isaiah 66:7-9(7-9)Isaiah 66:7-9(7-9)Isaiah 66:7-9(7-9)
Joy In Jerusalem's Future
Isaiah 66:10-17(10-17)Isaiah 66:10-11(10-11)Isaiah 66:10-11(10-11)Isaiah 66:10-11(10-11)Isaiah 66:10(10)
Isaiah 66:11(11)
Isaiah 66:12-13(12-13)Isaiah 66:12-16(12-16)Isaiah 66:12-14Isaiah 66:12a(12a)
The Reign and Indignation of God Isaiah 66:12-13(12b-13)
Isaiah 66:14-16(14-16) Isaiah 66:14(14)
Isaiah 66:15-16Isaiah 66:15(15)
Isaiah 66:16-17(16-17)
Isaiah 66:17(17)Isaiah 66:17Isaiah 66:17-19aAn Eschatological Discourse
Isaiah 66:18-24(22-24)Isaiah 66:18-21Isaiah 66:18-21 Isaiah 66:18-22
Isaiah 66:19-21
Isaiah 66:22-23(22-23)Isaiah 66:22-23(22-23)Isaiah 66:22-24
Isaiah 66:23-24(23-24)
Isaiah 66:24(24)Isaiah 66:24

READING CYCLE THREE (see Guide to Good Bible Reading)

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-2

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Isaiah 66:1-2 1Thus says the LORD, “Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? 2For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being,” declares the LORD. “But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.

Isaiah 66:1 “Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool.

Where then is a house you could build for Me?

And where is a place that I may rest?” This is an obvious allusion to the dedicatory prayer of Solomon in 1 Kings 8:27 and is again alluded to in Acts 8:47-48.

What is difficult to know is to what historical period this relates. Some see it relating to the return from the exile and the rebuilding of the Temple, which is possible from the context. However, others say that God does not live in manmade buildings and that this refers to

1. the temple of the human body which God has made

2. the family of God, the faith seed of Abraham (Jews and Gentiles of faith, cf. Romans 2:28-29)

3. the cosmic temple of Genesis 1:0, see John H. Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One

Isaiah 66:2 “For My hand made all these things” For “hand” see Special Topic: Hand. We learn from the NT that God's agent in creation was no one other than the pre-Incarnate Jesus Christ (cf. John 1:3; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2).

“But to this one I will look,

To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word” God looks first at the motives and character of the human heart. YHWH knows the thoughts and intents of the heart (cf. Isaiah 66:18).

1. 1 Samuel 2:3; 1 Samuel 16:7

2. 1 Kings 8:39

3. 1 Chronicles 28:9

4. 2 Chronicles 6:30

5. Psalms 7:9; Psalms 17:3; Psalms 26:2; Psalms 44:21; Psalms 139:1, Psalms 139:23

6. Proverbs 15:11; Proverbs 16:2; Proverbs 21:2; Proverbs 24:12

7. Jeremiah 11:20; Jeremiah 17:9-10; Jeremiah 20:12

8. Luke 16:15

9. Acts 1:24; Acts 15:8

10. Romans 8:27

Jesus also knows the inner thoughts and motives of humans, see John 2:24-25; John 6:61, John 6:64; John 13:11!

This same description is used of David's contrition over the sin with Bathsheba (cf. Psalms 51:17); note Isaiah 57:15; Psalms 34:18; Matthew 5:3-4; Luke 18:13-14.

This also has two titles for God's people that are very beautiful and descriptive.

1. a humble and repentant people

2. those who tremble at His word (cf. Isaiah 66:5)

Verses 3-6

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Isaiah 66:3-6 3But he who kills an ox is like one who slays a man; He who sacrifices a lamb is like the one who breaks a dog's neck; He who offers a grain offering is like one who offers swine's blood; He who burns incense is like the one who blesses an idol. As they have chosen their own ways, And their soul delights in their abominations, 4So I will choose their punishments And will bring on them what they dread. Because I called, but no one answered; I spoke, but they did not listen. And they did evil in My sight And chose that in which I did not delight.” 5Hear the word of the LORD, you who tremble at His word: “Your brothers who hate you, who exclude you for My name's sake, Have said, 'Let the LORD be glorified, that we may see your joy.' But they will be put to shame. 6A voice of uproar from the city, a voice from the temple, The voice of the LORD who is rendering recompense to His enemies.

Isaiah 66:3-4 This shows that ritual alone is not satisfactory (cf. Isaiah 29:13; Jeremiah 7:0), but combined with ritual must be a humble and repentant heart. That which we do over and over again tends to become common, but in the area of faith, our motive is the key (cf. Isaiah 66:2).

Isaiah 66:3 “And their soul delights in their abominations” This refers to various pagan worship rites (cf. Isaiah 65:4, Isaiah 65:7, Isaiah 65:11). They loved and chose (BDB 103, KB 119, used three times in Isaiah 66:3-4) sin (cf. Isaiah 1:4; Isaiah 57:17; Isaiah 65:2; Isaiah 66:18; Psalms 81:11-12)!

Isaiah 66:4

NASB“punishments” NKJV“delusions” NRSV, JPSOA“mock” TEV“disaster” NJB“making fools of them” REB“a willful course”

The word (BDB 760, KB 1768) is found only here and Isaiah 3:4. KB suggests

1. acts of mischief (done by a child from the root, עולל (BDB 760) for Isaiah 3:4

2. ill treatment here

The NET Bible gets a meaning from עלל (BDB 760), “deal severely.”

“And will bring on them what they dread” Oh my! What a terrible curse from God (cf. Proverbs 1:27; Proverbs 10:24)!

“Because I called, but no one answered” Here again is the repetition of the theme (cf. Isaiah 41:28; Isaiah 50:2; Isaiah 65:12).

Isaiah 66:5 There is a distress and tension even within the people of God (cf. Romans 9:6-8). The persecution of the prophets by fellow Jews is a good example of this (cf. Matthew 5:10-12; Matthew 10:22). Many horrible things have been done by “religious” people in God's name!

Notice how the true people of God should respond to persecution - joy (BDB 970, cf. Isaiah 51:11; Isaiah 55:12; Isaiah 61:7; note Isaiah 66:10 which has several other words synonymous with joy.

1. be glad - BDB 162

2. rejoice - BDB 965 (twice)

3. also Qal IMPERATIVE of “joy” (BDB 970)

There are three commands in Isaiah 66:5.

1. Hear the word of the LORD - Qal IMPERATIVE, BDB 1033, KB 1570

2. Let the LORD be glorified - Qal IMPERFECT, BDB 457, KB 455, used in a JUSSIVE sense (the LXX translates it as PASSIVE)

3. That we may see your joy - Qal IMPERECT, BDB 906, KB 157, used in a COHORTATIVE sense

Isaiah 66:6 There has been much discussion among commentators about how this verse relates to the context. Some say it is an unknown historical event, while others say it is related directly to Isaiah 66:5, which shows the judgment of prideful, unbelieving Jews.

Verses 7-9

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Isaiah 66:7-9 7”Before she travailed, she brought forth; Before her pain came, she gave birth to a boy. 8Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Can a land be born in one day? Can a nation be brought forth all at once? As soon as Zion travailed, she also brought forth her sons. 9Shall I bring to the point of birth and not give delivery?” says the LORD. “Or shall I who gives delivery shut the womb?” says your God.

Isaiah 66:7-13 This context refers to Zion bringing forth a nation in one day which includes Gentiles. Some see this as the return from exile, but in this event no Gentiles were included. Therefore, it must be eschatological (i.e., NT).

Verses 10-17

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Isaiah 66:10-17 10”Be joyful with Jerusalem and rejoice for her, all you who love her; Be exceedingly glad with her, all you who mourn over her, 11That you may nurse and be satisfied with her comforting breasts, That you may suck and be delighted with her bountiful bosom.” 12For thus says the LORD, “Behold, I extend peace to her like a river, And the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; And you will be nursed, you will be carried on the hip and fondled on the knees. 13As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; And you will be comforted in Jerusalem.” 14Then you will see this, and your heart will be glad, And your bones will flourish like the new grass; And the hand of the LORD will be made known to His servants, But He will be indignant toward His enemies. 15For behold, the LORD will come in fire And His chariots like the whirlwind, To render His anger with fury, And His rebuke with flames of fire. 16For the LORD will execute judgment by fire And by His sword on all flesh, And those slain by the LORD will be many. 17”Those who sanctify and purify themselves to go to the gardens, Following one in the center, Who eat swine's flesh, detestable things and mice, Will come to an end altogether,” declares the LORD.

Isaiah 66:10 As a result of what YHWH has done in restoring His people to their Promised Land (i.e., Genesis 12:1; Genesis 15:16), the commands are

1. be joyful - Qal IMPERATIVE, BDB 970, KB 1333

2. rejoice - Qal IMPERATIVE, BDB 162, KB 189

3. be exceedingly glad - the Qal IMPERATIVE and the NOUN, BDB 965, KB 965

Isaiah 66:12 The parental imagery of God's love for His people is so powerful in this verse. YHWH is described in feminine metaphors (cf. Isaiah 49:15; Isaiah 66:9-13; see Special Topic at Isaiah 41:2).

The fact that God would use “a nursing woman” to describe Himself says volumes.

SPECIAL TOPIC: WOMEN IN THE BIBLE

Isaiah 66:13 The word “comforts” (BDB 636, KB 688) is used three times in this verse.

1-2. Piel IMPERFECT (twice)

3. Pual IMPERFECT

This reminds one of Isaiah 40:1 (Piel IMPERATIVE, twice); also note Isaiah 12:1; Isaiah 53:3 (twice), Isaiah 66:12, Isaiah 66:19; Isaiah 52:9; Isaiah 61:2 (Isaiah 57:18, BDB 637). This is the theme of Isaiah 40-66. YHWH has acted to forgive, forget, and restore those who trust Him and tremble at His word (Isaiah 66:2, Isaiah 66:5)!

Isaiah 66:15-16 Notice the different metaphors used to describe YHWH's judgment.

1. fire (BDB 77; see Special Topic: Fire)

2. whirlwind (BDB 693 I, cf. Isaiah 5:28; Jeremiah 4:13)

3. His anger (BDB 60 I) with fury (BDB 404, cf. Isaiah 42:25; Isaiah 51:20; Isaiah 63:3, Isaiah 63:6)

4. His rebuke with flames of fire, cf. Isaiah 29:6; Isaiah 30:30

5. judgment by fire

6. His sword on all flesh, cf. Isaiah 65:12

Isaiah 66:16 “those slain by the LORD will be many” This shows that judgment will begin with the household of God. We need to remember that there are many within the Jewish community and, God help us, within the Church, who do not really know Christ Jesus, the Messiah.

Isaiah 66:17 “to the gardens” This seems to be a reference to a type of pagan worship (cf. Isaiah 65:3).

“Following one in the center” The word translated “center” (BDB 1063) is also used of the “tree of life” in Genesis 3:3. The Septuagint sees Isaiah 65:22 as also referring to the tree of life. Here this may refer to the Asherah poles or carved stake of Canaanite fertility worship. See Special Topic at Isaiah 57:5-6.

“Who eat. . .”

1. swine's flesh, cf. 69:4

2. detestable things (BDB 1054, cf. Leviticus 11:10, Leviticus 11:11, Leviticus 11:12, Leviticus 11:13, Leviticus 11:20, Leviticus 11:23, Leviticus 11:41, Leviticus 11:42)

3. mice (BDB 747, cf. Leviticus 11:29)

I think the food laws of Leviticus 11:0 are not hygienic but cultic. They were meant to keep Israel from any social or religious contact with Canaanites.

Verses 18-24

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Isaiah 66:18-24 18”For I know their works and their thoughts; the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and see My glory. 19I will set a sign among them and will send survivors from them to the nations: Tarshish, Put, Lud, Meshech, Tubal and Javan, to the distant coastlands that have neither heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they will declare My glory among the nations. 20Then they shall bring all your brethren from all the nations as a grain offering to the LORD, on horses, in chariots, in litters, on mules and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem,” says the LORD, “just as the sons of Israel bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the LORD. 21I will also take some of them for priests and for Levites,” says the LORD. 22”For just as the new heavens and the new earth Which I make will endure before Me,” declares the LORD, “So your offspring and your name will endure. 23And it shall be from new moon to new moon And from sabbath to sabbath, All mankind will come to bow down before Me,” says the LORD. 24”Then they will go forth and look On the corpses of the men Who have transgressed against Me. For their worm will not die And their fire will not be quenched; And they will be an abhorrence to all mankind.”

Isaiah 66:18-21 “the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues” The word “time” has been provided by Eben Ezra in his translation of the Masoretic Text. There is some confusion as to the exact setting of this verse. The VERB “know” is not in the Hebrew text.

This is a reference somehow to the gathering of the nations. They seem to come for hostile purposes against the people of God (i.e., “survivors”). But, in God's defeat of them (cf. Isaiah 66:24b) some come to believe in Him. Then God sends them as a sign, Isaiah 66:19 (cf. Isaiah 11:10, Isaiah 11:12), to their own nations as evangelists. And, wonder of wonders - the heathen respond to the message and come back to God at Jerusalem to worship and He even makes some of them into priests and Levites (cf. Isaiah 66:21).

This section, Isaiah 66:19-24, is absolutely shocking in its universal thrust. This has caused great consternation and uncertainty among the rabbis, but in context, it is obviously the fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise of Genesis 3:15; Genesis 12:1-3. See Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan.

Isaiah 66:18 “For I know their words and their thoughts” God knows the hearts of all men. See full note at Isaiah 1:2. YHWH knows the thoughts and intentions of the heart (cf. Isaiah 66:18)

1. 1 Samuel 2:3; 1 Samuel 16:7

2. 1 Kings 8:39

3. 1 Chronicles 28:9

4. 2 Chronicles 6:30

5. Psalms 7:9; Psalms 17:3; Psalms 26:2; Psalms 44:21; Psalms 139:1, Psalms 139:23

6. Proverbs 15:11; Proverbs 16:2; Proverbs 21:2; Proverbs 24:12

7. Jeremiah 11:20; Jeremiah 17:9-10; Jeremiah 20:12

8. Luke 16:15

9. Acts 1:24; Acts 15:8

10. Romans 8:27

Jesus also knows the inner thoughts and motives of humans, cf. John 2:24-25; John 6:61, John 6:64; John 13:11!

Isaiah 66:20 This is one of several texts that speak of the Gentile nations bringing gifts and offerings to Jerusalem/temple (cf. Isaiah 2:2-3; Isaiah 56:7; Psalms 22:27; Psalms 86:9; Jeremiah 3:17; Micah 4:1-2).

Isaiah 66:22 See full note at Isaiah 65:17.

The VERB “endure” (BDB 763, KB 840) is used twice.

1. the new heavens and earth will endure - Qal IMPERFECT (see full note at Isaiah 62:2)

2. the seed of the faithful will endure - Qal PERFECT

This word, though used often in this section of Isaiah (cf. Isaiah 44:11; Isaiah 46:7; Isaiah 47:12, Isaiah 47:13; Isaiah 48:13; Isaiah 50:8; Isaiah 59:14; Isaiah 61:5), is translated “endure” only in Isaiah 66:22.

Isaiah 66:23 “All mankind will come to bow down before Me,” says the LORD” The VERB (BDB 1005, KB 295) is a rare Hishtapael (found only here). This is the obvious implication of monotheism (see Special Topic: Monotheism). For a full list of the universal emphasis in Isaiah see Isaiah 45:22.

Isaiah 66:24 This is the description of the unfaithful of both Jews and Gentiles. I do not think one can build a theology of end-time punishment based on this verse. This is the possible source of Jesus' use of the word Gehenna, which means “the valley of the sons of Hinnon,” which was the garbage dump of Jerusalem. Jesus used this term to describe eternal separation from God (see Special Topic: The Dead, Where Are They? [Sheol/Hades, Gehenna, Tartarus]). Notice the elements of the worm that does not die and the fire that is not quenched. These are the metaphors chosen by Jesus Himself to describe the fate of those who refuse to believe in Him (cf. Matthew 25:46).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. What is the central theme of Isaiah 65-66?

2. List the pagan worship rites of Isaiah 65:0.

3. To whom Isaiah 65:1 and 2 refer and why?

4. What is so unique about Isaiah 65:0 which is particularly seen in Isaiah 66:10 and 11?

5. Why does God create a new heaven and a new earth?

6. What is the significance of Isaiah 66:19-23?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Isaiah 66". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/isaiah-66.html. 2021.
 
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