Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Isaiah 65:5

"Who say, ‘Keep to yourself, do not come near me, For I am holier than you!' These are smoke in My nostrils, A fire that burns all the day.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Bigotry;   Church;   Condescension of God;   Heathen;   Hypocrisy;   Presumption;   Self-Righteousness;   Thompson Chain Reference - False;   Religion;   Religion, True-False;   Sanctimony;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Contempt;   Fire;   Hypocrites;   Jews, the;   Presumption;   Self-Righteousness;  
Dictionaries:
Fausset Bible Dictionary - Pharisees;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Nose;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Micah, Book of;   Righteousness;   Servant of the Lord;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Holiness Purity;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Nose;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Fire;   Nose;   Salvation;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Fire;   High Place;   Holiness;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

For I am holier than thou - So the Chaldee renders it.

קדשתיך kedashticha is the same with ממך קדשתי kadashti mimmecha . In the same manner חזקתני chazaktani, Jeremiah 20:7, is used for ממני חזקת chazacta mimmenni, "thou art stronger than I." - L.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Isaiah 65:5". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/isaiah-65.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Which say, Stand by thyself - Who at the time that they engage in these abominations are distinguished for spiritual pride. The most worthless people are commonly the most proud; and they who have wandered farthest from God have in general the most exalted idea of their own goodness. It was a characteristic of a large part of the Jewish nation, and especially of the Pharisees, to be self-righteous and proud. A striking illustration of this we have in the following description of the Hindu yogis, by Roberts: ‹Those men are so isolated by their superstition and penances, that they hold but little contact with the rest of mankind. They wander about in the dark in the place of burning the dead, or “among the graves;” there they affect to hold converse with evil and other spirits; and there they pretend to receive intimations respecting the destinies of others. They will eat things which are religiously clean or unclean; they neither wash their bodies, nor comb their hair, nor cut their nails, nor wear clothes. They are counted to be most holy among the people, and are looked upon as beings of another world.‘

These are a smoke in my nose - Margin, ‹Anger.‘ The word rendered ‹nose‘ (אף 'aph ) means sometimes nose Numbers 11:20; Job 40:24, and sometimes ‹anger,‘ because anger is evinced by hard breathing. The Septuagint renders this, ‹This is the smoke of my anger.‘ But the correct idea is, probably, that their conduct was offensive to God, as smoke is unpleasant or painful in the nostrils; or as smoke excites irritation when breathed, so their conduct excited displeasure (Rosenmuller). Or it may mean, as Lowth suggests, that their conduct kindled a smoke and a fire in his nose as the emblems of his wrath. There is probably an allusion to their sacrifices here. The smoke of their sacrifices constantly ascending was unpleasant and provoking to God.

A fire that burneth all the day - The idea here probably is, that their conduct kindled a fire of indignation that was continually breathed out upon them. A similar figure occurs in Deuteronomy 32:22: ‹For a fire is kindled in mine anger,‘ or in my nose (באפי be'appı̂y ), ‹and shall burn unto the lowest hell.‘ So in Psalm 18:8:

There went up a smoke out of his nostrils,

And fire out of his mouth devoured.

Compare Ezekiel 38:18.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Isaiah 65:5". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/isaiah-65.html. 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Isaiah 65:5

Which may, Stand by thyself

“ I am holier than thou”

For “I am holier read, probably, else I will make thee holy.
” The practices referred to were “mysteries,” and the initiated would communicate his “holiness” to others by contact with them, and so unfit them for all the ordinary uses of life (cp.
Ezekiel 44:19). (A. B.Davidson, D. D.)

Verse 5 alludes to those who claimed superior sanctity in virtue of certain rites into which they had been initiated. (Prof. S. R. Driver, D. D.)

Self-righteousness,--a smouldering heap of rubbish

The application of the passage to Israel is just thus. Year after year God dealt with great patience towards His chosen people, but they seemed to be desperately set upon idolatry in one form or another. Sometimes they worshipped Jehovah, but then they did it under figure and symbol, whereas He has expressly forbidden that even His own worship should be thus celebrated. At other times they altogether rejected Jehovah, and worshipped Baal and Ashtaroth, and whole troops of the gods of the heathen, and thus they provoked the Lord exceedingly. They also practised necromancy, or pretended communion with the dead, and witchcraft and sorcery, and all manner of abominable rites, like the depraved nations around them. When this open rebellion was given up, as it was after the captivity--for the Jews have never been guilty of idolatry since that day--they fell into another form of the same evil, namely, self-righteousness: so that when our Lord came He found self-righteousness to be the crying sin of Israel, the Pharisees carrying it to such a pitch as to render it utterly ridiculous. They reckoned that the touch of a common person polluted their sacredness, so that they needed to wash after walking down a street. When they traversed the ways they took the edge of the pavement, so that they might not brush against the garments of the passers-by, and even in the temple in prayer they stood by themselves lest they should be defiled. Their whole spirit is expressed in the words of the text--“Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou.” This God declares to be as obnoxious to Him as smoke in a man’s nose. Self-righteousness is rampant in our own day.

I. THE SIN OF SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS GROWS UP AMONG RELIGIOUS PEOPLE. It is not always the sin of the outside world, for many outsiders do not pretend to any righteousness at all, and I fancy they think all the better of themselves for that. This is an idle plea which it needs not many words to expose. “I make no profession,” says one. This is about as honour-able a confession as if a thief should, boast when caught at picking pockets, “I do not make any pretence to be honest,’ or a liar when detected should turn round and cry, “I never professed to speak the truth.” Among those who profess to be religious, self-righteousness very frequently comes in, because they have not truly received the religion of Jesus Christ; if they were true believers they would be humble and contrite, for self-righteousness and faith in Christ are diametrically opposed. Many who mingle with Christians, and are religious in a certain sense because they practise the forms of religion, are wont to put the form into the place of the spirit. These persons, too, even when they do not join the Christian Church, but only worship or seem to worship with Christians, are very apt to think that they must be better than other people because they do so. It is the danger of outwardly religious people, who are not savingly converted, to dream that they are somewhat advantaged by a mere attendance on the means of grace. Should an Egyptian rub his shoulders against an Israelite, would it turn him into an Israelite? Will living near a rich man make you rich? Do you forget that cry of our Lord, “Woe unto thee, Chorazin. Woe unto thee, Bethsaida?

II. THIS IS A SIN WHICH FLOURISHES WHERE OTHER SINS ABOUND. We read of these people that they did evil before the eyes of God, and chose that wherein He delighted not. They blasphemed God, and polluted themselves with unhallowed rites, communing with demons and the powers of darkness, and pretending to speak with departed spirits; and yet for all that they said--“Stand by thyself, I am holier than thou.” Self-righteousness is never more ridiculous than in persons whose conduct would not bear scrutiny for a moment. Self-righteous men, like foxes, have many tricks and schemes. They condemn in other people what they consider to be very excusable in themselves. These people will make a righteousness this way--they plead that if they do wrong yet there are some points in which theyare splendid fellows. Some one thing in which the unconverted man may excel is put in to make up for his deficiencies in a hundred other ways. By hook or by crook a man will make out that he is not so bad as he seems to be; the inventiveness of self-esteem is prodigious. No heap of rubbish is too rotten for the accursed toadstool of proud self to grow upon.

III. IT IS IN ITSELF A GREAT SIN. One is almost startled to find self-esteem placed after such a list of sins as this chapter records. To the Jew the eating of swine’s flesh and broth of abominable things was a great pollution, but self-righteousness is classed with it; it is even placed with necromancy and witchcraft. Drunkenness and swearing are sin in rags, but self-righteousness is sin in a respectable black coat. It is an aristocratic sin, and does not like to be put down with the common Tuck; and if we call it sin, yet many will plead that it is only so in a very refined sense. But God does not think so; He classes it with the very worst, and He does so because it is one of the worst. For a man to be self-righteous is in itself a sin of sins. For, first, it is blasphemy. God is holy. Here comes this base impostor and boasts, “And I am holy too. Is not that a ludicrous and contemptible form of blasphemy? It is profanity in its very essence. More, this self-righteousness is idolatry, for the man who counts himself to be righteous by his own works worships himself. Practically, the object of his adoration is his own dear, delectable, excellent self. Then, again, it is profanity, for it gives God the distinct lie. The Lord declares that no man is righteous.

IV. SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS IS THE FRUIT OF MAN’S OWN THOUGHTS. Look at Isaiah 65:2. Those who have high thoughts of themselves do not walk according to God’s commandments, but according to their own notions. If any man thinketh himself to be righteous in himself, he has never derived that idea from God’s law, and certainly not from the Gospel, for the Gospel knows no man after the flesh as righteous, but it regards all men as sinners, and comes to them with pardon; it treats men as lost and comes to save them. Self-righteous people are not much inclined to search the Scriptures, they do not read them with an understanding heart, so as to get the meaning; they rather make the Bible say their own meaning, and twist it to support their own pleasing dream.

V. SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS HAS THIS VICE ABOUT IT, THAT IT ALWAYS LEADS TO DESPISING OTHERS. That is the pith of the text.

VI. SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS IS MOST ABOMINABLE IN THE SIGHT OF GOD. What does He compare it to? He says, “It is a smoke in My nose, a fire that burneth all the day. At the bottom of the garden we gather together the dead leaves, and all the rubbish of the garden, and the heap is lighted, and it keeps on burning and smouldering all the day; and if you go and stand in the eye of the wind your eyes will smart, your nose will be offended, and you will feel that you cannot bear it. We do not wonder that He thus scorns and abhors proud selfrighteousness, for God is a God of truth, and truth cannot bear a lie, and selfrighteousness is a mass of lies. Moreover, self-righteousness is such a proud thing. God is always provoked with pride. Self-righteousness also denies the wisdom of God’s plan, and is utterly opposed to it. God’s present plan of working in the world goes upon the theory that we are guilty; being guilty, He provides a Saviour for us, and sends us a Gospel full of grace.

VII. SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS MOST EFFECTUALLY BARS A MAN FROM ALL HOPE OF SALVATION. We cannot be saved unless we become truly holy, but no man ever becomes truly holy who is content with a false holiness. Self-righteousness prevents repentance. You will never believe in Jesus Christ while you believe in yourself. What is the remedy for all this? God saith, “Behold Me”; that is to say, He bids thee cease from doting upon thine own fancied beauties and worshipping thine own foolish image. Look first to the holy God and tremble. Canst thou, of thyself, ever be like Him, pure, spotless, glorious? Look to Him and despair. Then comes the second, “Behold Me. See Jesus Christ on the cross dying, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God. As thou seest Him dying thy self-righteousness will die. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

False grounds of superiority in holiness

The disposition to arrogate the dignity of religious worth and excellence has never become extinct among men, nor the quite consistent disposition to turn it to the use of pride.

1. In some instances, an assumption of superior holiness has been made upon the ground of belonging to a certain division or class of mankind; a class having its distinction in the circumstance of descent and nativity, or in some artificial constitution of society. Thus the ancient Jews,--in virtue merely of being Jews. Imagine the worst Jew comparing himself with Aristides, Phocion or Socrates. The Brahmins, in virtue of a pretended pre-eminently holy descent; an emanation from the head of their creating god. In popish countries, the numerous ecclesiastical class. Something of this even in protestant England. In these instances there has been an assumption of holiness independently of individual personal character. What an infamy to perverted human reason, that anything which might leave the individual evidently bad, in heart and life, could yet be taken as constituting him the reverse of bad, that is, holy!

2. In many periods and places men have reputed themselves “holy” on the ground of a punctilious observance of religious forms and ceremonies whether of Divine appointment or human invention. This took the place of the true religious sanctity among the Jews. It is a grand characteristic of paganism. It actually stands instead of religion and morality among the far greater part of the people under the dominion of the Romish Church. It is to be feared there are some among us who venture a delusive assumption on the ground of a regular attention to the external services of religion. But we have cause to know that all this may be, and yet no vital transforming prevalence of religion in the heart.

3. Another ground of such assumption is general rectitude of practical conduct, separate from the true religious principle of moral excellence.

4. The pride of self-estimation for holiness is apt to be betrayed by persons who have preserved a character substantially free from reproach, against those who have, in some known instance, fallen into great sin. It might have been a case in which they were encountered by sudden, or complicated, or very extraordinary temptation, such as all should pray earnestly to be saved from. The delinquent may have penitently deplored the transgression through many subsequent years. But it has been often enough seen that another person, who has been happy enough not to incur any such marked blemish on his character, will assume a tone of high superiority against him, though he may never have had the same strength of temptation to combat with; may never think of ascribing his exemption to any higher cause than his own good principles; and may be quite destitute of some valuable qualities the other possesses. The whole life of this self-applauder may have been little better than a series of negatives. His faulty, penitent brother may have done much good.

5. A man may have had his mind directed to a speculative knowledge of religious doctrine; and we will suppose that it is valuable knowledge that he has gained. All this ma be, and yet the man feel little or nothing of the sanctifying power of religious truth. Yet, so ready is the speculatist to take to himself all the dignity and excellence of his subject and his cause, that this man may take up a lofty pretension--if not strictly and formally to “holiness,” yet to some meritorious relation to truth and religion; something which authorizes him in a high contempt,--not only of those who know nothing about religion, but also of those who feel its genuine influence and power, when they are feeble in the speculative intelligence of it. He accounts himself to be, as it were, in the confidence of religion, and that he must be invested with something of its venerable character, when he can so authentically declare its mind.

6. There is such a thing as a factitious zeal in the active service of religion; and that forms a ground of high pretension. Men in restless activity; hill of scheme, and expedient, and experiment, and ostentatious enterprise. But an attentive observer could easily descry that the cause of God was a very secondary concern with them, even at the best interpretation. Their grand object (whether they were conscious of it or not) was their own notoriety; and the cause of religion happened to be that which would most effectually serve this purpose.

7. There are a number of persons among professing Christians whose minds are almost ever dwelling on certain high points of doctrine, sought chiefly in the book of God’s eternal decrees. And it is on these doctrines that they found, in some manner, an absolute assurance of their being in the Divine favour. God forbid that we should deny or doubt that there is a firm and rational assurance of salvation attainable in this life. But such persons as we are referring to betray that their assurance, which takes its stand on so lofty a position, independent of a faithful estimate of the heart and life, has an unsanctifying effect; it slackens and narrows the force and compass of the jurisdiction of conscience; and, especially, cherishes in them the spirit of our text.

8. We may name as one of the things made a ground of pretension and pride, the experience of elated, ardent, enthusiastic feelings, in some semblance of connection with religion, bat not really of its genuine inspiration. (John Foster.)

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Isaiah 65:5". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/isaiah-65.html. 1905-1909. New York.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Which say, stand by thyself, &c. According to Aben Ezra, Jarchi, and Kimchi, these are the unclean persons that did the above things; who say to the righteous, "draw near to thyself"F16קרב אליך "accede ad te", Vatablus, Montanus, Tigurine version, Cocceius; "appropinqua ad te", Piscator. ; so the words are, go to thine own place, or to thine own company:

and come not near to me; keep off at a distance, as unworthy of such company:

for I am holier than thou; but this is the language of a self-righteous man, of a Pharisee that strictly observed the rituals of the law; and fitly describes such who lived in the times of Christ; and exactly agrees with the characters of such, who not only would have no dealings with the Samaritans, but washed themselves when they came from market, or any public place, lest they should be defiled with the common people of their own nation; and, even with religious persons, would not stand near them while praying; but despised them, if they had not arrived to that pitch of outward sanctity they had; see John 4:9, Luke 18:9. The phrase may be rendered, "do not touch me"F17אל תגש בי "ne contigas me"; so some in Vatablus; "ne attingite me", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "ne tangae rue": Cocceius. ; and the Pharisees would not suffer themselves to be touched by the common people, nor would they touch them. MaimonidesF18In Misn. Chagiga, c. 2. sect. 7. says,

"if the Pharisees touched but the garments of the common people, they were defiled all one as if they had touched a profluvious person, and were obliged to dip themselves all over;'

so that, when they walked in the streets, they used to walk on the sides of the way, that they might not be defiled by touching themF19lb. Hilcot Abot Tumaot, c. 13. sect. 8. . So EpiphaniusF20Contra Haeres. haeres. 9. relates of the Samaritan Jews, that when they touch one of another nation, they dip themselves with their clothes in water; for they reckon it a defilement to touch anyone, or to touch any man of another religion; and of the Dositheans, who were another sect of the Samaritans the same writer observesF21Contra Haeres, haeres 13. , that they studiously avoid touching any, for they abhor every man. A certain Arabic geographer of noteF23Apud Scaliger de Emendat, Temp. l. 7. makes mention of an island, called the island of the Samaritans, inhabited by some Samaritan Jews, as appears by their saying to any that apply to them, do not touch; and by this it is known that they are of the Jews who are called Samaritans; and this same arrogant superstition, as Scaliger observesF24Ibid. , continues in that people to this day, as those relate who have conversed with them:

these are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day: very offensive to the divine Being, as smoke is to the eyes and nostrils; very abominable to him; and whose proud and vain conduct raised indignation in him, and kindled the fire of his anger, which was continually exercised on them; see Luke 16:15. The Targum is,

"their vengeance is in hell, where the fire burns all the day.'

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Gill, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 65:5". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/isaiah-65.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

Which say, h Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou. These [are] a smoke in my nose, a fire that i burneth all the day.

(h) He shows that hypocrisy is always joined with pride and contempt of others.

(i) Their punishment will never have an end.

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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Isaiah 65:5". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/isaiah-65.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

(Matthew 9:11; Luke 5:30; Luke 18:11; Judges 1:19). Applicable to the hypocritical self-justifiers of our Lord‘s time.

smoke — alluding to the smoke of their self-righteous sacrifices; the fire of God‘s wrath was kindled at the sight, and exhibited itself in the smoke that breathed forth from His nostrils; in Hebrew the nose is the seat of anger; and the nostrils distended in wrath, as it were, breathe forth smoke [Rosenmuller] (Psalm 18:8).

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 65:5". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/isaiah-65.html. 1871-8.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Which say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou. These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day.

Holier — 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 smoak in my nostrils, a fire that burneth all the day; that is, a continual provocation to me: as smoak is an offence to our noses.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 65:5". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/isaiah-65.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Isaiah 65:5 Which say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou. These [are] a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day.

Ver. 5. Which say, Stand by thyself; come not near to me.] These Jews were all manner of naughts, and therefore worthily rejected by God; necromancers, idolaters, epicures, gross hypocrites, as here their words, full of pride and contempt of others, show them to be. Such were the Pharisees with their sanctior sum quam tu [Luke 7:39] the monks and mass priests among the Papists, and the Brownists with their broad leaves of formal profession among us. From Matthew 18:19, because Christ promiseth not doing for them that ask, except they agree on earth, Brownists peremptorily conclude that they ought not to pray with them that do not consent with them in their opinions; nor will they pray with their own wives and children, though never so pious, if they do not meet in the same centre of conceits. (a)

These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day,] i.e., A continual offence to me, as smoke is to the nose and eyes, [Proverbs 10:26] and shall be perpetually tormented by me in the hottest fire of hell; whereof hypocrites are the freeholders, and other sinners are but tenants as it were to them, while they are said to have their portion with the devil and hypocrites. Some think he hinteth at their smoking and sacrificing in their gardens and groves. [Isaiah 65:3]

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 65:5". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/isaiah-65.html. 1865-1868.

Sermon Bible Commentary

Isaiah 65:5

False grounds of superiority in holiness. The disposition to arrogate the dignity of holiness,—in other words, of religious worth and excellence,—has never become extinct among men, nor the quite consistent disposition to turn it to the use of pride. We may specify a few of the many grounds of pretension on which this assumption of holiness sustains itself, and takes authority for its pride of comparison with other men.

I. In some instances an assumption of superior holiness has been made upon the ground of belonging to a certain division or class of mankind, a class having its distinction in the circumstances of descent and nativity, or in some artificial constitution of society.

II. Again, in many periods and places men have reputed themselves holy on the ground of a punctilious observance of religious forms and ceremonies, whether of Divine appointment or human invention.

III. Another ground of such assumption and pride as the text expresses, is general rectitude of practical conduct, separate from the true religious principle of moral excellence.

IV. The pride of self-estimation for goodness or holiness is apt to be betrayed by persons who have preserved a character substantially free from reproach, against those who have, in some known instance, fallen into great sin.

V. There is such a thing as a factitious zeal in the active service of religion, and that forms a ground of high pretension.

VI. There are a number of persons among professing Christians whose minds are almost ever dwelling on certain high points of doctrine, sought chiefly in the book of God's eternal decrees. And it is on these doctrines that they found, in some manner, an absolute assurance of their being in Christ, in the Divine favour, children of God, and therefore as sure of heaven as if they were there. They can look with pride, not with pious gratitude, on those who are suffering doubts and solicitude respecting their state toward God and a future world.

VII. We may name, lastly, as one of the things made a ground of pretension and pride,—the experience of elated, ardent, enthusiastic feelings in some semblance of connection with religion, but not really of its genuine inspiration.

J. Foster, Lectures, 1st series, p. 180.


Reference: Isaiah 65:5.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxv., No. 1497.

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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Isaiah 65:5". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/sbc/isaiah-65.html.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Isaiah 65:5. Which say, Stand by thyself, &c.— In the following section, ch. Isaiah 66:5 the crime of hypocrisy as here is decried, and every reader will easily recognize in both places the Pharisees and their followers. See Luke 18:10. There cannot be a more lively description of spiritual pride and hypocritical arrogance than these words afford us.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Isaiah 65:5". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/isaiah-65.html. 1801-1803.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Though they were so exceedingly guilty, yet they pretended to a singular sanctity, so as they would not suffer others to come near or touch them. The Samaritans are usually charged with this uncharitableness, and the use of this form of words; but as some do more excuse the Samaritans than the other Jews as to this rigour, so it may be questioned whether they were not at this time carried into captivity; and certain it is, that among the Jews there was such a generation from whom the Pharisees in our Saviour’s time were derived, and this was the reason of their not eating, except they washed, when they came from the market, Mark 7:4, lest peradventure they should there have touched some heathen, or some person who was legally unclean. Thus they esteemed themselves holier than others, though all their holiness lay in these rituals, and those too such as God never commanded. And indeed those who most exceed in such ritual holiness (lying merely in a separation from others, by the usage of some unwritten traditions) come most short in moral and true holiness; for 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, Proverbs 10:26; which seemeth to be the sense rather than what some make, who make it a threatening of God’s wrath smoking against them, which is sufficiently expressed in the following verses.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Isaiah 65:5". 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" assumption of spiritual superiority over others disgusted the Lord (cf. Matthew 23). Rather than being a pleasing aroma in His nostrils, the smoke of their offerings repulsed Him. Their ceaseless sacrifices were a needless burning instead of pleasing acts of worship.

In this whole pericope, Isaiah was speaking in the Lord"s behalf about the Israelites who felt that their rituals of worship should have resulted in God"s blessing, or at least His responding to them when they prayed. They failed to appreciate that God dictates how people should worship Him because He is God. They felt that because they worshipped Him on their terms, He should respond as they demanded, even though they worshipped Him in unacceptable ways.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Isaiah 65:5". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/isaiah-65.html. 2012.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Unclean. Thus acted the hypocritical Pharisees. --- Smoke. A just punishment of those who had sought the smoke of human applause.

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Isaiah 65:5". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/isaiah-65.html. 1859.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Which say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou. These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day.

Which say, stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou - (Matthew 9:11; Luke 5:30; Luke 18:11; Jude 1:19.) Applicable to the hypocritical self-justifiers of our Lord's time.

These (are) a smoke in my nose - alluding to the smoke of their self-righteous sacrifices. The fire of God's wrath was kindled at the sight, and exhibited itself in the smoke that breathed forth from His nostrils; in the Hebrew, the nose is the seat of anger: and the nostrils distended in wrath, as it were, breathe forth smoke (Rosenmuller). (Psalms 18:8.)

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 65:5". "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

(5) Which say, Stand by thyself . . .—The picture, in its main outlines, reminds us of the proud exclusiveness of the later Pharisees, and the root-evil is, of course, identical. Here, however, the ground of the exclusiveness is not the consciousness of the peculiar privileges of Israel, but rests on what was an actual apostasy. Those of whom Isaiah speaks boasted of their initiation into heathen mysteries (Baal, Thammuz, or the like) as giving them a kind of consecrated character, and separating them from the profanum vulgus of the Israelites, who were faithful to the God of their fathers.

I am holier than thou.—Literally, I am holy to thee: i.e., one whom thou mayest not approach. (Comp. Leviticus 21:8.) By some commentators the verb is taken as transitive, I make thee holy: i.e., have power to impart holiness; but this is less satisfactory, both grammatically and as to meaning.

These are a smoke in my nose . . .—The point of the clause is that the punishment is represented as not future. The self-exalting idolaters are already as those who are being consumed in the fire of the Divine wrath, and their smoke is “a savour of death” in the nostrils of Jehovah.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Isaiah 65:5". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/isaiah-65.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Which say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou. These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day.
Stand
Matthew 9:11; Luke 5:30; 7:39; 15:2,28-30; 18:9-12; Acts 22:21,22; Romans 2:17-29; Jude 1:19
These
Proverbs 6:16,17; 10:26; 16:5; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5
nose
or, anger. a fire.
Deuteronomy 29:20; 32:20-22
Reciprocal: Genesis 19:9 - Stand;  Psalm 79:12 - render;  Proverbs 30:12 - that are;  Isaiah 66:6 - a voice of the Lord;  Ezekiel 11:15 - Get;  Ezekiel 16:56 - was not;  Mark 2:16 - How;  Luke 6:22 - separate;  Luke 6:37 - Judge;  Luke 15:29 - Lo;  Luke 18:11 - as;  John 7:49 - GeneralJohn 9:34 - and dost;  John 16:2 - the time;  Acts 10:28 - but;  Romans 3:9 - are we;  Galatians 2:12 - he withdrew;  James 2:3 - to the

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Isaiah 65:5". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/isaiah-65.html.

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

REPUDIATING THE SOCIETY OF OTHERS

Isa . Which say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me, &c.

There are few things in which it becomes us to be more careful than in our judgment of others, and in action founded on that judgment. Some relations in which we stand to men involve judgment of them. We are not forbidden to judge (Mat ). Our text accuses those to whom it applies, of asserting their own moral superiority, and repudiating the society of others on that account. But we must discriminate.

I. THERE IS A SENSE IN WHICH IT IS JUSTIFIABLE.

We are not called upon to consider all men morally equal to ourselves, nor to associate with them as if they were. We are forbidden so to do (2Co ; 2Th 3:6). It may be perfectly true that you are holier than some who may be considered; and that fact may be involved in your very profession of Christianity. The fact of conversion involves moral superiority to the unconverted, &c. And if this wide distinction exists between saints and sinners, why should it not be professed? We need a visible organisation as a point around which the saints may gather. Such an organisation the Saviour's wisdom and grace has provided in the fellowship of the Church. Those who join that fellowship emphatically declare their separation from the world. Not only so. In the multiform relations of individual life, and in relation to many practices and principles which obtain in the world, Christians must be prepared practically to say, "Stand by thyself," &c. But

II. THERE IS A SENSE IN WHICH IT IS UNJUSTIFIABLE.

It is possible to say this in an improper and irreligious spirit. It may be said—

1. By the self-deceived. It may be quite contrary to the fact. The Jewish people said it. But they are solemnly charged in the verses before the text with practising some of the vilest abominations of heathenism (Isa ; Isa 65:4). Nor is theirs a solitary case.

2. By the self-righteous. They are under a delusion as to the nature of holiness, &c. Nor has the self-righteous spirit been cast out of the world.

3. By the uncharitable. They are ever quick to discern the failings of others, while their eyes are closed to their own, &c. The Church of Christ should free itself from this uncharitableness and censoriousness.

Let us place ourselves habitually in the pure light of God's holiness. Then we shall be so humbled by the consciousness of our own sinfulness as to be very tender and pitiful towards the imperfections of our brethren. And in any case, let us see that we possess and cultivate the holiness which is assumed by those who assert their own superiority.—J. Rawlinson.

I. A picture of self-righteous pride. Despises others. Glorifies self. Pretends to peculiar sanctity. II. Its offensiveness in the sight of God. It offends His purity. Arouses His indignation.

Isa . Man's iniquities are—I. Multiplied. By personal acts. From generation to generation. II. Recorded. In God's book—minutely, accurately. III. Will certainly be recompensed. Justly. By measure into every man's bosom.—J. Lyth, D.D.

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Isaiah 65:5". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/isaiah-65.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

5.Remain by thyself. (202) He points out extreme impiety in the Jews, who obstinately and rebelliously opposed God’s worshippers, and refused to listen to any warnings. There is some hope of repentance, so long as we lend an ear to warnings and reproofs; but if we reject them, our case is undoubtedly hopeless.

Though the words are apparently obscure, their meaning amounts to this, that hypocrites disdainfully and fiercely repel faithful advisers, because they either make false claims to holiness, or, on account of pride, do not suffer themselves to be reproved; for hypocrisy is never free from supercilious disdain and haughtiness. Let us not wonder, therefore, that those who are infected by this vice swell with insolent pretensions, and boast of their virtue and holiness, and value themselves more highly than all others; for Satan has blinded them to make an idle and ostentatious boast of what they call their devotions, and to despise the word of God.

Commentators think that this is a general statement; which reproves the Jews for refusing to submit to the prophets. But it appears to me that we ought to take into account a circumstance to which they do not attach sufficient weight, that this verse is in close and immediate connection with the preceding verses, and contains a sharp reproof of the Jews, for not only revolting from the true worship, but likewise following obstinately their own inventions, so as to turn with disdain from every one that did not flatter them; for that phrase, “Remain with thyself,” means nothing else than “Away with thee!” as if they declared that they would have nothing to do with honest instructors. (203)

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 65:5". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/isaiah-65.html. 1840-57.