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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Isaiah 65

 

 

Verse 1

Isaiah 65:1. That in the primary sense of this text it is a prophecy of the conversion of the Gentiles, upon the rejection of the Jews, for their contempt and crucifying of Christ, cannot be doubted by any, who will not arrogate to themselves a greater ability to interpret the prophecies of the Old Testament than St. Paul had, who, Romans 10:20, expressly so interprets it, and applies it; which shows the vanity of the Jews in their other interpretations of it. I am sought — Hebrew, נדרשׁתי, literally, diligent inquiry is made after me; or, I am diligently inquired of. Vitringa renders it, “Quæsitus sum cum effectu;” I am sought so as to be found. The LXX. read, εμφανης εγενηθην, I am made manifest, or, made known, as Bishop Lowth translates it; to them that asked not for me — That in times past made no inquiry after me; I am now found by them that formerly sought me not. I said, Behold me, behold me — I invited whole nations, by the preaching of my gospel, to behold me, and that with importunity, reiterating my calls and entreaties; and this I did unto a nation not called by my name, with which I was not in covenant, and which did not profess any relation to me. The prophet speaks of what was to take place some hundreds of years afterward, as if it were a thing already done, to signify the certainty of it.


Verse 2

Isaiah 65:2. I have spread out my hands — This is applied to the Jews, Romans 10:21. I have stretched out my hands, I have used all means to reduce them; I have stretched out the hands of a passionate orator, to persuade them; of a liberal benefactor, to load them with my benefits: this I have done continually, in the whole course of my providence with them. To a rebellious people — Yet they are a rebellious people. St. Paul expounds it by λαον απειθουντα και αντιλεγοντα, A people not persuaded, not believing, or, not obeying; but gainsaying, or, contradicting the word and will of God. Which walketh in a way that is not good — Less is expressed than is intended: the meaning is, in a way that is very bad. After their own thoughts — Or, as it is elsewhere expressed, after the imaginations of their hearts; a usual phrase to describe sin, especially in the matter of God’s worship. The Prophet Jeremiah expresses sin in this manner many times.


Verse 3-4

Isaiah 65:3-4. A people that provoketh me to anger — That the Jews are the people here intended, is without question: the prophet, speaking of the calling of the Gentiles, upon their rejection, enumerates some of their sins which were the causes thereof: for though their crucifying of Christ was the sin which was the principal or proximate cause, yet God visited on that generation their iniquities and the iniquities of their fathers together; they having, by the act of rejecting and crucifying their Messiah, filled up the measure of their sins. Continually to my face — With the utmost impudence, not taking notice of my omnipresence and omniscience. That sacrificeth in gardens, and burneth, &c. — Directly contrary to the divine rule. “These are instances,” says Bishop Lowth, “of heathenish superstition, and idolatrous practices, to which the Jews were immoderately addicted before the Babylonish captivity. The heathen worshipped their idols in groves: whereas God, in opposition to this species of idolatry, commanded his people, when they should come into the promised land, to destroy all the places wherein the Canaanites had served their gods, and in particular to burn their groves with fire, Deuteronomy 12:2-3. These apostate Jews sacrificed upon altars built of bricks; in opposition to the command of God, with regard to his altar, which was to be of unhewn stone, Exodus 20:25. Or it means perhaps that they sacrificed upon the roofs of their houses, which were always flat, and paved with brick or tile, or plaster of terrace; an instance of this idolatrous practice we find 2 Kings 23:12, where it is said that Josiah beat down the altars that were on the top of the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made. See also Zephaniah 1:5.” Who remain among the graves, and lodge in the monuments — Or, as Bishop Lowth renders it, Who dwell in the sepulchres and lodge in the caverns, for the purposes of necromancy, (or, the art of revealing future events by communications with the dead,) and divination; to obtain dreams and revelations: another instance this of heathenish superstition, which the Latin poet describes as follows: —

“Huc dona sacerdos Cum tulit, et cæsarum ovium sub nocte silenti Pellibus incubuit stratis, somnosque petivit; Multa modis simulacra videt volitantia miris, Et varias audit voces, fruiturque Deorum Colloquio, atque imis Acheronta affatur Avernis.” VIRG. ÆN., 7:86.

“Here in distress th’ Italian nations come, Anxious to clear their doubts, and learn their doom: First, on the fleeces of the slaughter’d sheep, By night the sacred priest dissolves in sleep; When, in a train, before his slumb’ring eye, Thin airy forms and wondrous visions fly, He calls the powers who guard the infernal floods, And talks inspired, familiar with the gods.” PITT.

Which eat swine’s flesh — “Which was expressly forbidden by the law, Leviticus 11:7; but among the heathen was in principal request in their sacrifices and feasts. Antiochus Epiphanes compelled the Jews to eat swine’s flesh, as a full proof of their renouncing their religion, 2 Maccabees 6:18; and 2 Maccabees 7:1. And broth of abominable things — For lustrations, magical arts, and other superstitious and abominable practices.” — Bishop Lowth.


Verse 5-6

Isaiah 65:5-6. Who say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me — Though they were so exceedingly guilty, yet they pretended to singular sanctity, so that they would not suffer others to come near or touch them. The reader will observe that the crime of hypocrisy is here decried, and every one that is acquainted with the gospels will easily see that the character of the Pharisees and their followers is drawn in this passage; see Luke 18:10. And there cannot be a more lively description of spiritual pride and hypocritical arrogance than it gives us. For I am holier than thou — Thus they esteemed themselves holier than others, though all their holiness lay in rituals, and those too such as God never commanded. Of these God saith, These are a smoke in my nostrils, a fire that burneth all the day

That is, a continual provocation to me: as smoke is an offence to our noses. Behold, it is written before me — They may think I take no notice of these things, but I will as certainly remember them as princes remember the things which, in order that they may not forget them, they record in writing. And they shall know that I take notice of, and will remember them; for I will not keep silence — That is, I will not long neglect the punishment of them, though for a while I have delayed it, like a man who restrains his wrath, for some wise reasons which are best known to himself, Psalms 50:21; but will recompense into their bosom — My punishment of them shall be severe and certain, but yet it shall be just, and not greater than their sins have merited.


Verse 7

Isaiah 65:7. Your iniquities, and the iniquities of your fathers together — Yea, and when I reckon with them, I will punish them, not only for their personal sins, but for the sins of their parents, which they have made their own, by imitation. Which have burned incense upon the mountains — There performing to idols that homage which I commanded them to pay unto me; or, if any of them pretend it was to me they performed that service, though before an image, yet it was in a way and place in which I expressly forbid them to worship me, having appointed the place where, and the manner how, I would be worshipped. And blasphemed me upon the hills — Dishonoured instead of glorifying me, by worshipping me in a way which I had not appointed, and which they learned only from idolaters. Therefore will I measure their former work, &c. — I will not only punish the late sins that they have committed, but the former sins of this kind, which those that went before did practise, and they have continued in.


Verses 8-10

Isaiah 65:8-10. Thus saith the Lord — These words may be conceived as a gracious answer from God to the prophet, pleading God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. To this God replies, that he intended no such severity as the utter destruction of the whole nation; that the unfaithfulness of men should not make his promise to the ancient patriarchs of none effect, Romans 3:3; that his threatening should be made good upon the generality of this people, whose vine was of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah, Deuteronomy 32:32. As the new wine is found in the cluster, &c. — As in a vineyard, which is generally unfruitful, there may be some vine that brings forth fruit; or as in a vine that is full of luxuriant branches, that bring forth no fruit, there may be here and there a bunch that contains good grapes, and as to such, the gardener bids his servants destroy it not, for there is in them what speaks God’s blessing. So — So

(saith God) will I do for my servants’ sake, that I may not destroy them all — Namely, for the sake of my servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I will bring a seed out of Jacob — A small number, which shall be as a seed, from whence others shall spring, Romans 9:27-29. And out of Judah — God further promises to bring out of Judah an inheritor of his mountains — That is, of the country of Judea, which was mountainous. God calls them his mountains, because he had chosen that country before all others. Though this may first refer to the return of the Jews out of the captivity of Babylon into their own land, yet, according to this whole prophecy, it must ultimately respect their restoration to the land of Canaan, after their conversion to Christianity. And mine elect shall inherit it — My chosen ones, namely, such as should embrace Christianity, termed by St. Paul, the election of grace, (Romans 11:5-7,) who, in consequence of repentance toward God, and faith in Jesus of Nazareth as the true Messiah, should become, with the Gentile Christians, a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, to offer spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. And Sharon shall be a fold of flocks — After they are restored, as mentioned above, to their own land. Sharon was a place of great fruitfulness for pastures. It was become like a wilderness, but God here promises that it should again be a place for the flocks. And the valley of Achor a place, &c. — Achor was a valley to the north of Jericho, opposite to the town of Ai, where Achan was put to death, and which was remarkably fertile, Joshua 7:26. For my people that have sought me — Lest the wicked, idolatrous Jews should apply this promise to themselves, God here limits it to the people who should seek him, that is, should turn to him in true repentance and faith, and seek his favour. That the words have the force of such a limitation appears from what follows.


Verse 11

Isaiah 65:11. But, &c. — The prophet now returns to address his discourse to the sinners and apostates, whom he had reproved and threatened, (Isaiah 65:2-3,) and renews his charge against them for forsaking the Lord, separating themselves from his worship, and polluting themselves with idolatry, the most shameful and abominable in his sight. Ye are they that forsake the Lord — Let not any of you that are idolaters and covenant- breakers think that these promises belong to you: you are apostates from God’s fear and love, his worship and service, and have neither part nor lot in this matter; that forget my holy mountain — My temple and worship, a figure of the Christian Church. That prepare a table, &c. — As God had altars, which are sometimes called tables, (see Ezekiel 41:22,) so they prepared altars for their idols. By preparing a table here, however, seems rather to be meant the feasts they made upon their sacrifices, in imitation of what the true God had commanded his people, Deuteronomy 16:14-15; for that troop — A troop of idols, worshipped by the heathen; and furnish the drink-offerings unto their number — God had appointed drink- offerings, as a sort of homage to be paid to him; and these people paid this homage to their idols. The words gad and meni, the former of which is rendered troop here, and the latter number, are thought by many commentators to be the names of certain idols. The LXX. render the former word τω δαιμονιω, the demon, or devil, and the latter τη τυχη, fortune. Or, according to the copy St. Jerome seems to have used, they have translated gad, fortune, and meni, demon. Not to mention the opinion of other learned men, Dr. Waterland and Bishop Lowth suppose that gad means the sun, and meni, the moon. And it seems very probable that the moon, at least, is meant by one of these names, being generally worshipped throughout all the East, and termed the queen of heaven, and afterward by the Greeks under the name of Hecate. The idolatrous Jews erected altars to this fancied goddess on the tops of their houses, or near their doors, and in the corners of their streets, or in groves, and offered to her incense, cakes baked with oil and honey, and drink-offerings of wine, and other liquors. And it appears to have been usual among the Greeks from the most ancient times, to spread in the evening a table covered with dainties, in the highways, in honour to her. But it is of no consequence to us what these objects of idolatrous worship were; nor have we any cause to regret, that the inspired penmen have not deigned to inform us, but have “chosen rather that the memory of the knowledge of them should be utterly abolished. And God be praised, that they are so totally abolished that we are quite at a loss to know what, and what sort of things they were.” — Schmidius, quoted by Bishop Lowth.


Verse 12

Isaiah 65:12. Therefore will I number you to the sword — “Here the allusion to meni, which signifies number, is obvious.” And you shall all bow down to the slaughter — As you have bowed down to idols, which are my enemies, I will make you bow down to your enemies’ swords; because when I called — Namely, by my prophets, you did not answer by doing the things that I enjoined. But did evil before mine eyes — You sinned deliberately, choosing sinful courses, the things which I hated. It must be observed here, that though the Jews, in the time of Christ and his apostles, (the period, it seems, referred to,) were not guilty of such idolatries as those above mentioned, yet, as they manifested the same spirit of rebellion, perverseness, and enmity to God, he therefore threatens that he would number them to the sword, as criminals ordered for execution, which he accordingly did, sending the Roman armies to desolate their country, lay their cities level with the ground, and almost extirpate their whole nation.


Verses 13-15

Isaiah 65:13-15. Behold, my servants shall eat, but you shall be hungry, &c. — I will make a great difference between my faithful servants and such unbelievers as you are. This promise the Lord fulfilled in a remarkable manner before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. In consequence of the direction given by Christ to his disciples, (Matthew 26:15,) when they observed the Roman armies approaching toward Jerusalem, they left the devoted city and fled to the mountains, an opportunity for doing which being given them by the special providence of God. For after the Romans, under Cestius Gallus, made their first advance toward Jerusalem, they suddenly withdrew again in a most unexpected, and, indeed, impolitic manner; at which Josephus testifies his surprise, since the city might then have been easily taken. By this means they gave, as it were, a signal to the Christians to retire; which, out of regard to their Lord’s admonition, they did, some to Pella, and others to mount Libanus, and thereby not only preserved their lives, but obtained a supply of all their wants; while, in the mean time, the unbelieving and disobedient Jews, who had rejected and crucified their Messiah, pertinaciously seeking to defend themselves in the city, were overwhelmed with the greatest calamities that ever came upon any people, and perished with hunger and thirst, the sword of their enemies, and mutual slaughters, in the greatest anguish and despair, crying, as it is here said, for sorrow of heart, and howling for vexation of spirit. And ye shall leave your name for a curse unto my chosen — That is, to the Christians. They shall use your name as examples of the eminent wrath of God upon sinners; or, as Vitringa reads it, Ye shall leave your name for an oath to my chosen; explaining the meaning to be, “That the punishment and calamity of these apostates should be so remarkable, that in the forms of swearing, men should take their example from the severity of the divine judgment inflicted upon them, and from their miserable state; saying, ‘If I knowingly and wilfully deceive, may as great calamities happen to me as have happened to those wicked and apostate Jews.’” See Jeremiah 29:22. For the Lord shall slay thee — For you shall not perish by an ordinary hand, but by the hand of the Lord God. Your destruction shall be most extraordinary. The prophet may either allude in this expression to the total abolition of the Jewish economy, or to the prodigious slaughter made of that people by one dreadful massacre after another, especially during the siege of Jerusalem; and shall call his servants by another name — God himself shall consider your very name as infamous and accursed, and will not suffer his people to be called by it. They shall not be called Jews or Israelites, but Christians. See note on Isaiah 62:2.


Verse 16

Isaiah 65:16. That he who blesseth himself in the earth — In any part of the world, for God shall have servants out of all nations, that shall be dignified with this new name; shall bless himself in the God of truth — That is, in his name; shall renounce every species of idolatry, and invoke and praise the true God alone. They shall have recourse to, and trust in, him alone, for blessing and happiness, and for a supply of all their wants. Observe, reader, it is of great consequence what that is which we bless ourselves in, and which we most please ourselves with. Worldly people bless themselves in the abundance which they have of this world’s goods, Psalms 49:18; Luke 12:19; but God’s servants bless themselves in him, as a God all- sufficient for them. And he that sweareth, &c. — By him also they shall swear, and not by any creature, or any false god. To his judgment they shall refer themselves, from whom every man’s judgment proceeds. Both in prayer and praise, and in every act of homage and worship, they shall give honour to him as the God of truth — Hebrew, Amen, which some understand of Christ, who is himself the Amen, the faithful and true witness, and in whom all the promises are yea and amen. In him we must bless ourselves, and by him we must swear unto the Lord, and covenant with him. Some read it, He that is blessed in the earth shall be blessed in the true God; for Christ is the true God and eternal life, 1 John 5:20. And it was promised of old, that in him should all families of the earth be blessed. Because the former troubles are forgotten — Namely, the troubles of the church. They shall see that what God hath promised he hath also fulfilled, and that he hath put an end to the troubles of his people, the remembrance of which shall be swallowed up in their present comforts. The chief reason of this is assigned in the next verse.


Verses 17-19

Isaiah 65:17-19. For behold, I create new heavens, &c. — I will tell you yet a more admirable thing: I am about wholly to change the state, not only of my people, freeing them from the afflictions and troubles by which they have been oppressed, but also of the world, bringing a new face upon it; sending my Son to institute a new economy and worship, and raise up a new church; and pouring out my Spirit in a more plentiful manner; which new state shall continue until a new heaven and a new earth appear, in which shall dwell nothing but righteousness, 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1. And the former shall not be remembered — That state of things shall be so glorious, that the former state of my people shall not be noticed in comparison of it. But be you glad and rejoice for ever — You that are my people. Though you cannot rejoice with that degree of joy which will attend the fruition of such a good, yet be glad and rejoice with the rejoicing of hope, for the thing is certain, and what I have already begun to do. Nor let your present state, nor the discouragements you have from seeming improbabilities, prevent your joy; for it is not a work to be performed in an ordinary way, or by an ordinary power, but by that almighty and creating energy which produces and brings into being what before had no existence. For behold, I create Jerusalem — Namely, the gospel church; a rejoicing — That is, a cause and source of joy, because of the light and grace, the wisdom, holiness, and happiness that shall be possessed by its members, the pure doctrine which shall be held and professed, and the excellent discipline which shall be maintained in it; and her people a joy — They shall not only rejoice, but be rejoiced in: those that sorrowed with the church shall rejoice with her. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem — The prosperity of the church shall be a rejoicing to God himself, who has pleasure in the prosperity of his servants; and joy in my people — Taking complacency in the work of my grace wrought in them, and in the works of righteousness wrought by them. And the voice of weeping shall be no more heard — Such promises, many of which are to be found in the Scriptures, must either be understood in a comparative sense, meaning they shall suffer no such misery as formerly, or as signifying only some long or eminent state of happiness; unless they be referred to another life, in which case they may be taken strictly, as signifying a perpetuity and perfection of joy and happiness.


Verse 20

Isaiah 65:20. There shall be no more thence an infant of days, &c. — There shall he no untimely or premature deaths, either of infants and children, who do not grow up to man’s estate, or of old men, who do not live out the full term of life. For the child shall die, &c. — This should rather be translated, For he that dies a hundred years old shall die a child: and the sinner that dies a hundred years old shall be (that is, shall be deemed) accursed, or cut off by the justice of God for his crime. Thus “the prophet describes this renovation of the world as a paradisiacal state, and such as the patriarchs enjoyed before the flood, when men commonly lived nearly a thousand years. So he that died at a hundred years of age would have been looked upon as dying in the age of childhood, and be judged to have been cut off in the beginning of his years, as a punishment for some great sins he had committed.” — Lowth. It is justly observed here by Mr. Scott, that “the event alone can certainly determine whether this is meant literally or figuratively; but it is evident that the universal prevalence of real Christianity would so terminate wars, murders, contentions, idleness, intemperance, and licentiousness, as greatly to lengthen out the general term of man’s life. Many diseases which now destroy thousands and tens of thousands in the prime of life, and communicate distempers to succeeding generations, would, in that case, scarcely be heard of any more; and thus the human constitution would soon be much mended, and children would generally come into the world more vigorous and healthy than they can do while vice so greatly prevails. What God may further intend in this matter we cannot determine.” Vitringa’s view of the passage seems to have been, that “there shall be no violent or punitive death in this holy city, but that all the inhabitants being holy, all shall die full of days and happy, and shall have, as it were, a foretaste, pledge, and earnest of life eternal, in their long and happy life below.”


Verses 21-23

Isaiah 65:21-23. They shall build houses and inhabit them — The prophet here describes another privilege of the church in these happy days. They shall enjoy blessings the very reverse of the curses denounced on the disobedient, Deuteronomy 28:30. They shall plant vineyards and eat the fruit of them. See note on Isaiah 62:8. They shall not plant and another eat — Which might happen, either through their enemies seizing the fruits of the trees they planted, or through their own premature death before those fruits were brought to perfection. For as the days of a tree are the days of my people — Not like the fading of a leaf, to which our present frail state is often compared, but their age shall equal the duration of the trees planted by them; yea, of the oaks, the most long-lived of trees, supposed to last about a thousand years, being five hundred years growing to full perfection, and as many decaying; “which,” says Bishop Lowth, “seems to be a moderate and probable computation.” The LXX. translate this clause, γαρ τας ημερας του ξυλου της ζωης εσυνται αι ημεραι του λαου μου; As the days of the tree of life shall be the days of my people. They shall not labour in vain — As those do who do not enjoy the fruit of their labour; nor bring forth — Beget and bring forth children; for trouble — Those that shall give them trouble by their bad conduct, or by the poverty and misery in which they shall be involved; for they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord, &c. — There is a blessing entailed upon them by descent from their ancestors, which their offspring with them shall partake of; who shall be a comfort to them, and whom they shall have the happiness to see walking in the truth.


Verse 24

Isaiah 65:24. Before they call I will answer — “Behold here,” says Vitringa, “a desirable blessing, the truest seal of divine favour and paternal love. The closest conjunction of heaven and earth, that is, of God and men, is expressed in this verse; seeing that God declares he will abundantly and immediately satisfy the desires of his people, which desires are here supposed to be just and conformable to his will; and that he will be of such goodness as of his own accord to prevent their requests, and even answer their prayers before they utter them.”


Verse 25

Isaiah 65:25. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together — Concerning the metaphorical sense of these expressions see chap. 11:7, and 35:9. But since the renovation here spoken of extends to the whole creation, the words may imply the correcting the noxious qualities of fierce or venomous creatures.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 65:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/isaiah-65.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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