Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Isaiah 65:3

A people who continually provoke Me to My face, Offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on bricks;
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Altar;   Backsliders;   Brick;   Church;   Condescension of God;   Idolatry;   Self-Righteousness;   Thompson Chain Reference - Altars;   Bricks;   False;   Idol;   Idolatrous;   Idolatry;   Worship, False;   Worship, True and False;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Altars;   Burial;   Gardens;   Idolatry;   Incense;   Jews, the;   Sacrifices;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Gardens;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Face;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Brick;   Garden;   Manasseh (2);   Holman Bible Dictionary - Brick;   Garden;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Brick;   Micah, Book of;   Righteousness;   Sanctification, Sanctify;   Servant of the Lord;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Garden, Gardener;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Brick;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Gardens;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Garden;   Salvation;   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Ashtoreth;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Captivity;   Groves and Sacred Trees;   High Place;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

That sacrificeth in gardens, and burneth incense upon altars of brick "Sacrificing in the gardens, and burning incense on the tiles" - These are instances 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, Deuteronomy 12:3. These apostate Jews sacrificed upon altars built of bricks; in opposition to the command of God in regard to his altar, which was to be of unhewn stone, Exodus 20:26. Et pro uno altari, quod impolitis lapidibus Dei erat lege constructum, coctos lateres et agrorum cespites hostiarum sanguine cruentabant. "And instead of one altar which, according to the law of God, was, to be constructed of unhewn stones, they stained the bricks and turfs of the fields with the blood of their victims." Hieron. in loc. 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 in 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. Sir John Chardin's MS. note on this place of Isaiah is as follows: "Ainsi font tous les Gentiles, sur les lieux eleves, et sur les terrasses, appellez latcres, pareeque sont faits de briq." "Who dwell in the sepulchres, and lodge in the caverns," for the purposes of necromancy and divination; to obtain dreams and revelations. Another instance of heathenish superstition: so Virgil: -

Huc dona sacerdos

Cum tulit, et caesarum 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.

Aen. 7:86. - L.

"Here in distress the Italian nations come,

Anxious, to clear their doubts, and learn their doom.

First, on the fleeces of the slaughtered sheep,

By night the sacred priest dissolves in sleep:

When in a train, before his slumbering 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.

There was a practice exactly like this which prevailed among the Highlanders of Scotland; an authentic account of this is given by Sir Walter Scott, in a note on his poem called The Lady of the Lake. It is as follows: -

"The Highlanders, like all rude people, had various superstitious modes of inquiring into futurity. One of the most noted was the Taghairm, mentioned in the text. A person was wrapped up in the skin of a newly-slain bullock, and deposited beside a waterfall, or at the bottom of a precipice, or in some other strange, wild, and unusual situation, where the scenery around him suggested nothing but objects of horror. In this situation he revolved in his mind the question proposed; and whatever was impressed upon him by his exalted imagination passed for the inspiration of the disembodied spirits who haunt these desolate recesses. In some of the Hebrides, they attributed the same oracular power to a large black stone by the sea-shore, which they approached with certain solemnities; and considered the first fancy which came into their own minds after they did so, to be the undoubted dictate of the tutelar deity of the stone; and as such to be, if possible, punctually complied with. Martin has recorded the following curious modes of Highland augury, in which the Taghairm, and its effects upon the person who was subjected to it, may serve to illustrate the text.

"It was an ordinary thing among the over-curious to consult an invisible oracle concerning the fate of families and battles, etc. This was performed three different ways; the first was by a company of men, one of whom, being detached by lot, was afterwards carried to a river, which was the boundary between two villages. Four of the company laid hold on him; and, having shut his eyes, they took him by the legs and arms, and then, tossing him to and again, struck his hips with force against the bank. One of them cried out, What is it you have got here? Another answers, A log of birch-wood. The other cries again, Let his invisible friends appear from all quarters, and let them relieve him by giving an answer to our present demands; and in a few minutes after, a number of little creatures came from the sea, who answered the question, and disappeared suddenly. The man was then set at liberty; and they all returned home, to take their measures according to the prediction of their false prophets; but the poor deluded fools were abused, for the answer was still ambiguous. This was always practiced in the night, and may literally be called the works of darkness.

"I had an account from the most intelligent and judicious men in the Isle of Skie, that, about sixty-two years ago, the oracle was thus consulted only once, and that was in the parish of Kilmartin, on the east side, by a wicked and mischievous race of people, who are now extinguished, both root and branch.

"The second way of consulting the oracle was by a party of men, who first retired to solitary places, remote from any house; and there they singled out one of their number, and wrapt him in a big cow's hide, which they folded about him. His whole body was covered with it, except his head, and so left in this posture all night, until his invisible friends relieved him, by giving a proper answer to the question in hand; which he received, as he fancied, from several persons that he found about him all that time. His consorts returned to him at the break of day, and then he communicated his news to them; which often proved fatal to those concerned in such unwarrantable inquiries.

"There was a third way of consulting, which was a confirmation of the second above mentioned. The same company who put the man into the hide took a live cat, and put him on a spit. One of the number was employed to turn the spit, and one of his consorts inquired of him, What are you doing? He answered, I roast this cat until his friends answer the question; which must be the same that was proposed by the man shut up in the hide. And afterwards, a very big cat (in allusion to the story of 'the King of the Cats,' in Lord Lyttleton's Letters, and well known in the Highlands as a nursery tale) comes, attended by a number of lesser cats, desiring to relieve the cat turned upon the spit, and then answers the question. If this answer proved the same that was given to the man in the hide, then it was taken as a confirmation of the other, which, in this case, was believed infallible.

"Mr. Alexander Cooper, present minister of North-Vist, told me that one John Erach, in the Isle of Lewis, assured him it was his fate to have been led by his curiosity with some who consulted this oracle, and that he was a night within the hide, as above-mentioned; during which time he felt and heard such terrible things, that he could not express them. The impression it made on him was such as could never go off; and he said for a thousand worlds he would never again be concerned in the like performance, for this had disordered him to a high degree. He confessed it ingenuously, and with an air of great remorse; and seemed to be very penitent under a just sense of so great a crime. He declared this about five years since, and is still living in the Lewis for any thing I know." - Description of the Western Isles p. 110. See also Pennant's Scottish Tour, vol. 2 p. 361.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Isaiah 65:3". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/isaiah-65.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

A people - This verse contains a specification of the reasons why God had rejected them, and brought the calamities upon them.

That provoketh me to anger - That is, by their sins. They give constant occasion for my indignation.

Continually - (תמיד tâmı̂yd ). It is not once merely, but their conduct as a people is constantly such as to excite my displeasure.

To my face - There is no attempt at concealment. Their abominations are public. It is always regarded as an additional affront when an offence is committed in the very presence of another, and when there is not even the apology that it was supposed he did not see the offender. It is a great aggravation of the guilt of the stoner, that his offence is committed in the very presence, and under the very eye, of God.

That sacrificeth in gardens - (See the notes at Isaiah 1:29).

And burneth incense - On the meaning of the word ‹incense,‘ see the notes at Isaiah 1:13.

Upon altars of brick - Margin, ‹Bricks.‘ The Hebrew is simply, ‹Upon bricks.‘ The command of God was that the altars for sacrifice should be made of unhewn stone Exodus 20:24-25. But the pagan had altars of a different description, and the Jews had sacrificed on those altars. Some have supposed that this means that they sacrificed on the roofs of their houses, which were flat, and paved with brick, or tile, or plaster. That altars were constructed sometimes on the roofs of their houses, we know from 2 Kings 23:12, where Josiah is said to have beaten down the ‹altars that were on the top of the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the king of Judah had made.‘ But it is not necessary to suppose that such sacrifices are referred to here. They had disobeyed the command of God, which required that the altars should be made only of unhewn stone. They had built other altars, and had joined with the pagan in offering sacrifices thereon. The reason why God forbade that the altar should be of anything but unhewn stone is not certainly known, and is not necessary to be understood in order to explain this passage. It may have been, first, in order effectually to separate his people from all others, as well in the construction of the altar as in anything and everything else; secondly, because various inscriptions and carvings were usually made on altars, and as this tended to superstition, God commanded that the chisel should not be used at all in the construction of the altars where his people should worship.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Isaiah 65:3". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/isaiah-65.html. 1870.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

A people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face,.... They committed their sins openly, without any fear of the divine Being, and in defiance of him, not at all awed by his omniscience and omnipresence; they committed them in the open streets, and even in the temple, the place of the divine residence; and these they did constantly, which provoked him to anger and wrath against them; particularly the following sins:

that sacrificeth in gardens; to idols, as the Targum, placed there, as they were under every green tree; or in groves, where idols were worshipped. Fortunatus ScacchusF8Sacr. Eleaochr. Myrothec. I. 2. c. 55. col. 580. thinks this refers to their having their sepulchres in their gardens, where they consulted the dead; which is favoured by a clause in the next verse:

and burneth incense on altars of brick: or, "upon bricks"F9על הלבנים "super lateres", V. L. Pagninus, Montanus, Vitringa. . Kimchi says, when they made bricks, they put upon them incense for idols; or, "upon tiles"; upon the roofs of their houses, which were covered with tiles; see Jeremiah 19:13 when incense should only have been burnt upon the golden altar erected for that purpose, Exodus 30:1, not that these idolatrous actions were committed by the Jews in the times of Christ and his apostles, the times preceding their last destruction; for, after their return front the Babylonish captivity, they were not guilty of idolatry; but these were the sins of their fathers, which God would recompense into their bosoms, according to Isaiah 65:7 they now filling up the measure of their iniquities, Matthew 23:32.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 65:3". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/isaiah-65.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

A people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face; that sacrificeth in d gardens, and burneth incense upon altars of e brick;

(d) Which were dedicated to idols.

(e) Meaning their altars, which he thus named by contempt.

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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Isaiah 65:3". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/isaiah-65.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

continually — answering to “all the day” (Isaiah 65:2). God was continually inviting them, and they continually offending Him (Deuteronomy 32:21).

to my face — They made no attempt to hide their sin (Isaiah 3:9). Compare “before Me” (Exodus 20:3).

in gardens — (See on Isaiah 1:29; Isaiah 66:17; Leviticus 17:5).

altars of brickHebrew, “bricks.” God had commanded His altars to be of unhewn stone (Exodus 20:25). This was in order to separate them, even in external respects, from idolaters; also, as all chiseling was forbidden, they could not inscribe superstitious symbols on them as the heathen did. Bricks were more easily so inscribed than stone; hence their use for the cuneiform inscriptions at Babylon, and also for idolatrous altars. Some, not so well, have supposed that the “bricks” here mean the flat brick-paved roofs of houses on which they sacrificed to the sun, etc. (2 Kings 23:12; Jeremiah 19:13).

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This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 65:3". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/isaiah-65.html. 1871-8.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

A people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face; that sacrificeth in gardens, and burneth incense upon altars of brick;

To my face — With the utmost impudence, not taking notice of God's omnipresence, and omniscience.

In gardens, … — Directly contrary to the divine rule.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 65:3". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/isaiah-65.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Isaiah 65:3 A people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face; that sacrificeth in gardens, and burneth incense upon altars of brick;

Ver. 3. A people that provoketh me to my face.] As it were for the nonce, in despite and defiance of me. Siquis me in faciem depalmaret, vix indignius essera laturus: I could almost as well bear a blow on the face.

And burneth incense upon altars of brick.] (a) Erected on the house tops. [2 Kings 23:12 Zephaniah 1:5] They should have offered on the golden altar only. [Exodus 30:3-5]

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 65:3". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/isaiah-65.html. 1865-1868.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

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, reckons up their sins which were the causes. For though their rejecting and crucifying of Christ was that sin which was the proximate cause; yet God did but visit on that generation their iniquities, and the iniquities of their fathers together, they having by that act filled up their measure. They had provoked God continually to anger to his face.

To my face; either in his temple, the place where he used to manifest himself; or (considering what followeth) more probably the phrase signifieth their impudence, not taking notice of God’s omnipresence and omniscience.

The particular provocations instanced in are deviations in the matter of Divine worship.

Sacrificing in gardens is one thing instanced in; and

burning incense on brick, or altars of brick, is another, Deuteronomy 12:13: there was a particular altar of gold appointed for incense, Exodus 40:5. God commanded, Exodus 20:24,25, that his altars should be made of earth, or rough stone. This people transgressed both these laws; sacrificing in gardens, for which the prophet reflected on them, Isaiah 1:29, and again Isaiah 66:17; whether in gardens consecrated to idols, or in such gardens, as the heathens worshipped idols in, is not much material for us to know; and burning incense upon altars of brick, directly contrary to the Divine rule. Their worship was doubtless idolatrous, and these phrases signify committing idolatry; but the expressing that sin by these phrases lets us know that the doing contrary to the direction of the Divine rule in God’s worship is a great part of the sinfulness of idolatry.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Isaiah 65:3". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/isaiah-65.html. 1685.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

The Israelites provoked the Lord by offering their sacrifices in ways that were unacceptable to Him-and then claimed that He was unresponsive to them. Gardens were unauthorized places for sacrificing, and bricks were unauthorized materials for an altar (cf. Exodus 20:25; Deuteronomy 27:5-6; Joshua 8:31).

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Isaiah 65:3". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/isaiah-65.html. 2012.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Gardens, to the impure Venus and Adonis. --- Bricks, to the Manes. (Calmet) --- Tegula porrectis satis est velata coronis

Et sparsæ fruges parvaque mica salis. (Ovid, Fast. x.)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Isaiah 65:3". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/isaiah-65.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

provoketh Me to anger. Reference to Pentateuch (Deuteronomy 32:21, the same word, though not the same form). App-92.

that sacrificeth in gardens. Reference to Pentateuch (Leviticus 17:5).

upon altars of brick = upon the bricks: i.e. not on the golden altar of incense.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Isaiah 65:3". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/isaiah-65.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

A people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face; that sacrificeth in gardens, and burneth incense upon altars of brick;

A people that provoketh me to anger continually - answering to "all the day" (Isaiah 65:2). God was continually inviting them, and they continually offending Him (Deuteronomy 32:21).

To my face. They made no attempt to hide their sin (Isaiah 3:9). Compare "before me," Exodus 20:3.

That sacrificeth in gardens - (note, Isaiah 1:29; Isaiah 66:17; Leviticus 17:5.)

And burneth incense upon altars of brick - Hebrew, bricks. God had commanded His altars to be of unhewn stone (Exodus 20:25). This was in order to separate them, even in external respects, from idolaters; also, as all chiseling was forbidden, they could not inscribe superstitious symbols on them, as the pagan did. Bricks were more easily so inscribed than stone: hence, their use for the cuneiform inscriptions at Babylon, and also for idolatrous altars. Some, not so well, have supposed that the "bricks" here mean the flat brick-paved roofs of houses on which they sacrificed to the sun, etc. (2 Kings 23:12; Jeremiah 19:13.)

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 65:3". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/isaiah-65.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(3) That sacriflceth in gardens.—It is not without significance, as bearing on the date of the chapter, that the practice was common in Judah under Ahaz. (Comp. Isaiah 1:29, Mi. 5; Ezekiel 20:28.)

Burneth incense upon altars of brick.—Literally, on the bricks, and possibly, therefore, on the roofs of houses, as was common in the idolatrous practices of Judah (2 Kings 23:12; Jeremiah 19:13). By some interpreters the words are referred, though with less probability, to the brick altars which the exiles are supposed to have used at Babylon, and were forbidden by the Law (Exodus 20:24-25).

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Isaiah 65:3". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/isaiah-65.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

A people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face; that sacrificeth in gardens, and burneth incense upon altars of brick;
A people
3:8; Deuteronomy 32:16-19,21; 2 Kings 17:14-17; 22:17; Psalms 78:40,58; Jeremiah 32:30-35; Ezekiel 8:17,18; Matthew 23:32-36
to my face
Job 1:11; 2:5
that sacrificeth
1:29; 66:17; Leviticus 17:5; Jeremiah 3:6; Ezekiel 20:28
altars
Heb. bricks.
Exodus 20:24,25; 30:1-10
Reciprocal: Genesis 11:3 - brick;  1 Kings 14:22 - they provoked;  1 Kings 22:53 - provoked;  Isaiah 1:4 - provoked;  Isaiah 7:13 - will ye;  Isaiah 65:12 - did evil;  Isaiah 66:3 - as if he offered;  Isaiah 66:4 - they did;  Jeremiah 1:16 - and have;  Jeremiah 7:18 - that they;  Ezekiel 6:13 - upon;  Matthew 8:30 - an

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Isaiah 65:3". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/isaiah-65.html.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

3.A people that provoketh me. Here he describes and illustrates more largely in what respects the Jews were rebellious against God. It was because they had forsaken the command of God, and had polluted themselves by various superstitions. He had said a little before, (Isaiah 63:17,) that the Jews had estranged themselves from God, because they wandered after their inventions; and now he points out the fruit of that licentiousness, that, by giving a loose rein to their thoughts, they overturned the pure worship of God. And undoubtedly this is the origin of all superstitions, that men are delighted with their own inventions, and choose to be wise in their own eyes rather than restrain their senses in obedience to God. In vain do men bring forward their devotions, as they call them, and their good intentions, which God holds in such abhorrence and detestation that they who have followed them are guilty of breaking the covenant and deserting from their allegiance; for there is nothing which we ought to undertake of our own accord, but we ought to obey God when he commands. In a word, the beginning and perfection of lawful worship is a readiness to obey.

By the word “provoke” he describes the impudence of the people, who deliberately, as it were, provoked God, and had no reverence for his majesty so as to submit to his authority. And he heightens the description by saying, To my face; for since God may be said to be present and actually beheld by those whom he warns by his word, they sin more heinously, and are guilty of greater impudence and rebellion, than those who never heard the word.

That sacrificeth in gardens, and offereth incense on bricks. He mentions the “gardens” which they had consecrated to their idols, and says that they provoked him by them. Some think that “bricks” are mentioned by way of contempt, and are indirectly contrasted with the altar on which alone God wished that they should sacrifice; and accordingly they think that here he mentions the roofs on which superstitious persons were wont to offer sacrifices; for they were made of “bricks.” But I think that it means simply the altars which they had built for idols; for, although they were not without the plausible pretense of wishing to imitate that form of altar which God had prescribed, yet God abhorred it, because it was contrary to his word.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 65:3". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/isaiah-65.html. 1840-57.