It is generally supposed that this chapter is closely connected in sense with the preceding; and that its object is, to defend the proceedings of God in regard to the Jews, and especially with reference to the complaint in the preceding chapter. If so, it is designed to state the reasons why he had thus afflicted them, and to encourage the pious among them with the expectation of great future prosperity and safety. A general view of the chapter may be obtained by a glance at the following analysis of the subjects introduced in it.
I. God states in general that he had called another people who had not sought him, and extended the blessings of salvation to those who had been strangers to his name Isaiah 65:1. This is evidently intended to show that many of his ancient people would be rejected, and that the blessings of salvation would be extended to others Romans 10:20. In the previous chapter they had pled Isaiah 64:9, that they were 'all' his people; they had urged, because their nation had been in covenant with God, that he should interpose and save them. Here an important principle is introduced, that they were not to be saved of course because they were Jews; and that others would be introduced to his favor who belonged to nations which had not known him, while his ancient covenant people would be rejected. The Jews were slow to believe this; and hence, Paul says Romans 10:20 that Isaiah was 'very bold' in advancing so unpopular a sentiment.
II. God states the true reason why he had punished them Isaiah 65:2-7. It was on account of their sins. It was not because he was changeable, or was unjust in his dealings with them. He had punished them, and he had resolved to reject a large portion of them, though they belonged to his ancient covenant people, on account of their numerous and deeply aggravated crimes. He specifies particularly:
1. That they had been a rebellious people, and that he had stretched out his hands to them in vain, inviting them to return.
2. That they were a people which had constantly provoked him by their idolatries; their abominable sacrifices; and by eating the things which he had forbidden.
3. That they were eminently proud and self-righteous, saying to others, Stand by yourselves, for we are holier than you.
4. That for these sins God could not but punish them. His law required it, and his justice demanded that he should not pass such offences by unnoticed.
III. Yet he said that the whole nation should not be destroyed. His elect would be saved; in accordance with the uniform doctrine of the Scriptures, that all the seed of Abraham should not be cut off, but that a remnant should be kept to accomplish important purposes in reference to the salvation of the world Isaiah 65:8-10.
IV. Yet the wicked portion of the nation should be cut off, and God, by the prophet, describes the certain punishment which awaited them Isaiah 65:11-16.
1. They would be doomed to slaughter.
2. They would be subjected to hunger and want, while his true servants would have abundance.
3. They would cry in deep sorrow, while his servants would rejoice.
4. Their destruction would be a blessing to his people, and the result of their punishment would be to cause his own people to see more fully the value of their religion, and to prize it more.
V. Yet there would be future glory and prosperity, such as his true people had desired, and such as they had sought in their prayers; and the chapter concludes with a glowing description of the glory which would bless his church and people Isaiah 65:17-25.
1. God would create new heavens and a new earth - far surpassing the former in beauty and glory Isaiah 65:17.
2. Jerusalem would be made an occasion of rejoicing Isaiah 65:18.
3. Its prosperity is described as a state of peace, security, and happiness Isaiah 65:19-25.
(1) great age would be attained by its inhabitants, and Jerusalem would be full of venerable and pious old men.
(2) they would enjoy the fruit of their own labor without annoyance.
(3) their prayers would be speedily answered - even while they were speaking.
(4) the true religion would produce a change on the passions of people as if the nature of wild and ferocious animals were changed, and the wolf and the lamb should feed together, and the lion should eat straw like the ox. There would be universal security and peace throughout the whole world where the true religion would be spread.
There can be no doubt, I think, that this refers to the times of the Messiah. Particular proof of this will be furnished in the exposition of the chapter. It is to be regarded, indeed, as well as the previous chapter, as primarily addressed to the exiles in Babylon, but the mind of the prophet is thrown forward. He looks at future events. He sees a large part of the nation permanently rejected. He sees the Gentiles called to partake of the privileges of the true religion. He sees still a remnant of the ancient Jewish people preserved in all their sufferings, and future glory rise upon them under the Messiah, when a new heavens and a new earth should be created. It is adapted, therefore, not only to comfort the ancient afflicted people of God, but it contains most important and cheering truth in regard to the final prevalence of the true religion, and the state of the world when the gospel shall everywhere prevail.
I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name.I am sought of them that asked not for me - That is, by the Gentiles. So Paul applies it in Romans 10:20. Lowth translates the word which is rendered, 'I am sought,' by 'I am made known.' Noyes, 'I have heard.' The Septuagint renders it, Ἐμφανὴς ἐγενήθην Emphanēs egenēthēn - 'I became manifest.' Jerome, 'They sought me who had not before inquired for me.' The Chaldee, 'I am sought in my word by those who had not asked me before my face.' The Hebrew word דרשׁ dârash means properly "to frequent a place, to search or seek"; and in the Niphal - the form used here - "to be sought unto, to grant access to anyone; hence, to hear and answer prayer" Ezekiel 14:3; Ezekiel 20:3-31. Here there is not only the idea that he was sought, but that they obtained access to him, for he listened to their supplications. The phrase, 'That asked not for me,' means that they had not been accustomed to worship the true God. The idea is, that those had obtained mercy who had not been accustomed to call upon him.
I am found of them - Paul has rendered this Romans 10:20, Ἐμφανὴς ἐγενόμην Emphanēs egenomēn - 'I was made manifest.' The idea is, that they obtained his favor.
I said, Behold me, behold me - I offered them my favor, and invited them to partake of salvation. Paul has omitted this in his quotation.
Unto a nation - This does not refer to any particular nation, but to people who had never been admitted to favor with God.
That was not called by my name - (See the notes at Isaiah 63:19).
I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts;I have spread out my hands - To spread out the hands is an action denoting invitation or entreaty Proverbs 1:24. The sense is, that God had invited the Jews constantly to partake of his favors, but they had been rebellious, and had rejected his offers.
All the day - I have not ceased to do it. The Chaldee renders this, 'I sent my prophets all the day to a rebellious people.'
Unto a rebellious people - (See the notes at Isaiah 1:2). Paul renders this, Πρὸς λαον ἀπειθοῦντα καὶ ἀντιλέγοντα Pros laon apeithounta kai antilegonta - 'Unto a disobedient and gainsaying people;' but the sense is substantially preserved.
Which walketh - In what way they did this, the prophet specifies in the following verse. This is the general reason why he had rejected them, and why he had resolved to make the offer of salvation to the Gentiles. This, at first, was a reason for the calamities which God had brought upon the nation in the suffering of the exile, but it also contains a general principle of which that was only one specimen. They had been rebellious, and God had brought this calamity upon them. It would be also true in future times, that he would reject them and offer salvation to the pagan world, and would be found by those who had never sought for him or called on his name.
A people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face; that sacrificeth in gardens, and burneth incense upon altars of brick;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.
Which remain among the graves, and lodge in the monuments, which eat swine's flesh, and broth of abominable things is in their vessels;Which remain among the graves - That is, evidently for purposes of necromancy and divination. They do it to appear to hold converse with the dead, and to receive communications from them. The idea in necromancy was, that departed spirits must be acquainted with future events, or at least with the secret things of the invisible world where they dwelt, and that certain persons, by various arts, could become intimate with them, or 'familiar' with them, and, by obtaining their secrets, be able to communicate important truths to the living. It seems to have been supposed that this acquaintance might be increased by lodging in the tombs and among the monuments, that they might thus be near to the dead, and have more intimate communion with them (compare the notes at Isaiah 8:19-20). It is to be recollected, that tombs among the ancients, and especially in Oriental countries, were commonly excavations from the sides of hills, or frequently were large caves. Such places would furnish spacious lodgings for those who chose to reside there, and were, in fact, often resorted to by those who had no houses, and by robbers (see Matthew 8:28; Mark 5:3).
And lodge in the monuments - Evidently for some purpose of superstition and idolatry. There is, however, some considerable variety in the exposition of the word rendered here 'monuments,' as well as in regard to the whole passage. The word rendered 'lodge' (ילינוּ yâliynû), means properly to pass the night, and refers not to a permanent dwelling in any place, but to remaining over night; and the probability is, that they went to the places referred to, to sleep - in order that they might receive communications in their dreams from idols, by being near them, or in order that they might have communication with departed spirits. The word rendered 'monuments' (נצוּרים netsûrı̂ym) is derived from נצר nâtsar, to watch, to guard, to keep; then to keep from view, to hide - and means properly hidden recesses; and dark and obscure retreats. It may be applied either to the adyta or secret places of pagan temples where their oracles were consulted and many of their rites were performed; or it may be applied to sepulchral caverns, the dark and hidden places where the dead were buried. The Septuagint renders it, 'They sleep in tombs and in caves (ἐν τοῖς σπηλαίοις en tois spēlaiois) for the purpose of dreaming' (διὰ ἐνύπνια dia enupnia); in allusion to the custom of sleeping in the temples, or near the oracles of their gods, for the purpose of obtaining from them communications by dreams. This custom is not unfrequently alluded to by the ancient writers. An instance of this kind occurs in 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.
AEaeid, vii. 86-91.
'Here in distress the Italian nations come,
Anxious to clear their doubts and earn 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 slumbering eye,
Their airy forms and wondrous visions fly:
He calls the powers who guard the infernal floods,
And talks inspired familiar with the gods.'
In the temples of Serapis and AEsculapius, it was common for the sick and infirm who came there to be cured, to sleep there, with the belief that the proper remedy would be communicated by dreams. 'The following places may also be referred to as illustrating this custom: Pausan. Phoc. 31; Cic. Divin. i. 43; Strabo vi. 3, 9; S. H. Meibom. De incubatione in fanta Deorum olim facta. Helmst. 1659, 4. Lowth and Noyes render it, 'In caverns.' The Chaldee renders it, 'Who dwelt in houses which are built of the dust of sepulchres, and abide with the dead bodies of dead people.' There can be no doubt that the prophet here alludes to some such custom of sleeping in the tombs, for the alleged purpose of conversing with the dead, or in temples for the purpose of communion with the idols by dreams, or with the expectation that they would receive responses by dreams (compare the notes at Isaiah 14:9)
Which eat swine's flesh - This was expressly forbidden by the Jewish law Leviticus 11:7, and is held in abomination by the Jews now. Yet the flesh of the swine was freely eaten by the pagan; and when the Jews conformed to their customs in other respects, they doubtless forgot also the law commanding a distinction to be made in meats. Antiochus Epiphanes compelled the Jews to eat swine's flesh as a token of their submission, and of their renouncing their religion. The case of Eleazer, who chose to die as a martyr, rather than give such a proof that he had renounced his religion, and who preferred death rather than to dissemble, is recorded in 2 Macc. 6:19-31. See also the affecting case of the mother and her seven sons, who all died in a similar manner, in 2 Macc. 7. Yet it seems that, in the time of Isaiah, they had no such devotedness to their national religion. They freely conformed to the nations around them, and thus gave public demonstration that they disregarded the commands of Yahweh. It is also to be observed, that swine were often sacrificed by the pagan, and were eaten in their feasts in honor of idols. The crime here referred to, therefore, was not merely that of partaking of the flesh, but it was that of joining with the pagan in idolatrous sacrifices. Thus Ovid says:
Prima Ceres avidae gavisa est sanguine porcae,
Ulta suas merita caede nocentis opes.
- immolet aequis
Hic porcum Laribus -
Thus, Varro (De Re Rustic. ii. 4), says 'The swine is called in Greek ὗς hus (formerly θῦς thus), and was so called from the word which signifies to sacrifice (θύειν thuein), for the swine seem first to have been used in sacrifices. Of this custom we have vestiges in the fact, that the first sacrifices to Ceres are of the swine; and that in the beginning of peace, when a treaty is made, a hog is sacrificed; and that in the beginning of marriage contracts in Etruria, the new wife and the new husband first sacrifice a hog. The primitive Latins, and also the Greeks in Italy, seem to have done the same thing.' Spencer (De Leg. Heb i. 7) supposes that this was done often in caves and dark recesses, and that the prophet refers to this custom here. If this view be correct, then the offence consisted not merely in eating swine's flesh, but in eating it in connection with sacrifices, or joining with the pagan in their idolatrous worship.
And broth of abominable things - Margin, 'Pieces.' Lowth says that this was for 'lustrations, magical arts, and other superstitious and abominable practices.' The word rendered here 'broth,' and in the margin 'pieces' (פרק pârâq), is derived from the verb פרק pâraq, to break (whence the Latin frango; the Goth. brikan; the Germ. breoken; and the English break), and means that which is broken, or a fragment; and hence, broth or soup, from the fragments or crumbs of bread over which the broth is poured. The Septuagint renders this, 'And all their vessels are polluted.' It is not improbable that the broth or soup used here was in some way employed in arts of incantation or necromancy. Compare Shakespeare's account of the witches in Macbeth:
1.:Witch: Where hast thou been, sister?
2.:Witch: Killing swine.
Act i. Sc. 3.
Hec: Your vessels and your spells provide,
Your charms, and everything beside.
Act iii. Sc. 5.
1.:Witch: Round about the caldron go,
In the poison'd entrails throw,
Toad that under the cold stone,
Days and nights hath thirty-one,
Fillet of a finny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake,
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork, and blind worm's sting,
Lizard's leg, and howlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Act iv. Sc. 1.
It seems probable that some such magical incantations were used in the time of Isaiah. Such things are known to have been practiced in regions of idolatry (see Marco Polo, De Region. Orient., iii. 24). 'When the priests of the idol,' says he, 'wish to engage in sacred things, they call the consecrated girls, and with them, in the presence of the idols, they engage in the dance, and sing aloud. These girls bear with them vessels of food, which they place on the table before the idols, and they entreat the gods to eat of the food, and particularly they pour out broth made of flesh before them, that they may appease them.' The whole scene here described by the prophet is one connected with idolatry and magical incantations; and the prophet means to rebuke them for having forsaken God and fallen into all the abominable and stupid arts of idolaters. It was not merely that they had eaten the flesh of swine, or that they had made broth of unclean meats - which would have been minor, though real offences - it was that they had fallen into all the abominable practices connected with idolatry and necromancy.
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 - 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.
Behold, it is written before me: I will not keep silence, but will recompense, even recompense into their bosom,Behold, it is written before me - That is, the crimes of which they had been guilty, or the sentence which would be consequent thereon. The allusion is to the custom of having the decrees of kings recorded in a volume or on a table, and kept in their presence, so that they might be seen and not forgotten. An allusion to this custom of opening the books containing a record of this kind on trials, occurs in Daniel 7:10, 'The judgment was set, and the books were opened.' So also Revelation 20:12, 'And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.' So here. An impartial record had been made, and God would recompense them according to their deeds.
I will not keep silence - Nothing shall compel me to desist from declaring a sentence which shall be just and right.
But will recompense, even recompense - That is, I will certainly requite them. The word is repeated in accordance with the usual manner in Hebrew to denote emphasis.
Into their bosom - (See Psalm 79:12; Jeremiah 32:18; Luke 6:38). The word bosom, here refers to a custom among the Orientals of making the bosom or front of their garments large and loose, so that articles could be carried in them, answering the purpose of our pockets (compare Exodus 4:6-7; Proverbs 6:27). The sense here is, that God would abundantly punish them for their sins.
Your iniquities, and the iniquities of your fathers together, saith the LORD, which have burned incense upon the mountains, and blasphemed me upon the hills: therefore will I measure their former work into their bosom.Your iniquities - Their idolatry and their forsaking God, and their arts of necromancy.
And the iniquities of your fathers together - The consequences of your own sins, and of the long defection of the nation from virtue and pure religion, shall come rushing upon you like accumulated floods. This is in accordance with the Scripture doctrine everywhere, that the consequences of the sins of ancestors pass over and visit their posterity (see Exodus 20:5; Exodus 34:7; Numbers 14:18; Job 21:19; Luke 11:50-51; the notes at Romans 5:19). The case here was, that the nation had been characteristically prone to wander from God, and to fall into idolatry. Crime had thus been accumulating, like pent-up waters, for ages, and now it swept away every barrier. So crime often accumulates in a nation. Age after age rolls on, and it is unpunished, until it breaks over every obstacle, and all that is valuable and happy is swept suddenly away.
Which have burnt incense upon the mountains - (See the notes at Isaiah 65:3).
And blasphemed me upon the hills - That is, they have dishonored me by worshipping idols, and by denying me in that public manner. Idols were usually worshipped on high places.
Will I measure their former work - I will recompense them; I will pour the reward of their work or of their doings into their bosom.
Thus saith the LORD, As the new wine is found in the cluster, and one saith, Destroy it not; for a blessing is in it: so will I do for my servants' sakes, that I may not destroy them all.Thus saith the Lord - This verse is designed to keep their minds from utter despair, and to assure them that they should not be utterly destroyed. See the analysis of the chapter.
As the new wine - The Hebrew word used here (תירושׁ tı̂yrôsh), means properly "must" or "new wine" (see the notes at Isaiah 24:7). The Septuagint renders it here, ὁ ῥὼξ ho rōx, a grain or berry; meaning probably a good grape. The Chaldee renders it, 'As Noah was found pure in the generation of the deluge, and I said I would not destroy them, that I might rise up a generation from him, so will I do on account of my servants, that I may not destroy all.' Jerome renders it, Granum - 'A kernel,' or berry.
Is found in the cluster - Expositors have differed in the interpretation of this passage. The true image seems to be taken from collecting grapes when a large part of them were in some way damaged or spoiled - either by the quality of the vine, or by a bad season, or by having been gathered too early, or being suffered to remain too long in a heap. In such a case the vine-dresser would be ready to throw them away. But in the mass he would find a few that were ripe and good. While he was throwing away the mass, someone would say that a part was good, and would entreat him not to destroy it. So with the Jews. The mass was corrupt, and was to be cut off. But still a portion should be left. This is in accordance with the doctrine everywhere occurring in Isaiah and elsewhere in the Scriptures, that the whole Jewish nation should not be cut off, but that a remnant should be preserved (see the notes at Isaiah 6:13; compare Isaiah 1:9; Isaiah 7:3; Isaiah 10:21; Isaiah 11:11-16).
For a blessing - That which is regarded as a blessing; that is wine (compare Judges 9:13).
So will I do - The whole nation shall not be cut off, but a remnant shall be kept and saved.
And I will bring forth a seed out of Jacob, and out of Judah an inheritor of my mountains: and mine elect shall inherit it, and my servants shall dwell there.And I will bring forth a seed - I will give descendants to Jacob, who shall share my favor and repossess the land.
An inheritor of my mountains - The mountains of Palestine - Jerusalem and the vicinity - called the mountains of God because he claimed that land as his special residence, and the place where his holy religion was established.
And mine elect - They who have been chosen by me to maintain my religion in the world.
And Sharon shall be a fold of flocks, and the valley of Achor a place for the herds to lie down in, for my people that have sought me.And Sharon - Sharon was properly a district south of Mount Carmel, along the coast of the Mediterranean, and extending from. Caesarea to Joppa. In the Scripture, this is almost a proverbial name to denote extraordinary beauty and fertility (see the notes at Isaiah 30:9; Isaiah 32:5).
Shall be a fold of flocks - At the time contemplated here by the prophet - the close of the exile - that whole country would have lain waste about seventy years. Of course, during that long period it would be spread over with a wild luxuriance of trees and shrubs. Once it was celebrated pasture-ground, and was exceedingly beautiful as a place for flocks and herds. Such a place it would be again When the exiles should return, and cultivate their native land. The following description of Sharon, in the spring of 1824, by Mr. Thompson, an American Missionary, will give an idea of the natural appearance of that part of Palestine. The view taken was from a high tower in Ramla. 'The whole valley of Sharon, from the mountains of Jerusalem to the sea, and from the foot of Carmel to the hills of Gaza, is spread before you like a painted map, and is extremely beautiful, especially at evening, when the last rays of the setting sun gild the distant mountain tops, the weary farmer returns from his labor, and the bleating flocks come frisking and joyful to their fold. At such a time I saw it, and lingered long in pensive meditation, until the stars looked out from the sky, and the cool breezes of evening began to shed soft dews on the feverish land. What a paradise was here when Solomon reigned in Jerusalem, and sang of the roses of Sharon!'
And the valley of Achor - This was a valley near to Jericho, and was distinguished as the place where Achan was put to death by stoning Joshua 7:24; Joshua 15:7; Hosea 2:15. The word Achor (עכור ‛âkôr), means properly "causing affliction," and the name was probably given to that valley from the trouble or affliction which was there caused to the Israelites from the sin of Achan. The phrase, 'the valley of Achor,' would probably thence become a proverbial expression to denote that which caused trouble of any kind. And the sense here probably is, that that which had been to the nation a source of calamity should become a source of blessing - as if a place distinguished for causing trouble should become as celebrated for producing happiness. As that valley had been a source of great trouble on their first entering into the land of Canaan, so it would become a place of great exultation, peace, and joy, on their return from their exile. They would naturally enter Canaan near to that valley, and the place which to them had been once the occasion of so much distress, would be found a quiet and peaceful place where their herds might lie down in safety (compare Hosea 2:15).
But ye are they that forsake the LORD, that forget my holy mountain, that prepare a table for that troop, and that furnish the drink offering unto that number.But ye are they that forsake the Lord - Or rather, 'Ye who forsake Yahweh, and who forget my holy mountain, I will number to the sword.' The design of this verse is to remind them of their idolatries, and to assure them that they should not escape unpunished.
That forget my holy mountain - Mount Moriah, the sacred mountain on which the temple was built.
That prepare a table - It was usual to set food and drink before idols - with the belief that the gods consumed what was thus placed before them (see the notes at Isaiah 65:4). The meaning here is, that the Jews had united with the pagan in thus 'preparing a table;' that is, setting it before the idols referred to, and placing food on it for them.
For that troop - Margin, 'Gad.' Perhaps there is nowhere a more unhappy translation than this. It has been made evidently because our translators were not aware of the true meaning of the word, and did not seem to understand that it referred to idolatry. The translation seems to have been adopted with some reference to the paronomasia occurring in Genesis 49:19; 'Gad, a troop shall overcome him' - יגוּדנוּ גדוּד גד gâd gedûd yegûdenû - where the word Gad has some resemblance to the word rendered troop. The word Gad itself, however, never means troop, and evidently should not be so rendered here. Much has been written on this place, and the views of the learned concerning Gad and Meni are very various and uncertain. Those who are disposed to examine the subject at length, may consult Rosenmuller, Vitringa, and Gesenius on the passage; and also the following works.
On this passage the reader may consult the Dissertation el David Mills, De Gad et Meni, and also the Dissertation of Jo. Goth. Lakemacher, De Gad et Meni, both of which are to be found in Ugolin's Thesaurus, xxiii. pp. 671-718, where the subject is examined at length. Mills supposes that the names Gad and Meni are two names for the moon - sidus bonum, and μηνη mēnē. He remarks that 'on account of the power which the moon is supposed to exert over sublunary things, it was often called the goddess Fortune. It is certain that the Egyptians by Τύχη Tuchē (Fortune), which they numbered among the gods who were present at the birth of man, understood the moon.' Among the Arabians and Persians the moon is said to have been denominated Sidus felix et faustum - 'The happy and propitious star.' See Rosenmuller in loc. Lakemather supposes that two idols are meant - Hecate and Mann Vitringa and Rosenmuller suppose that the sun and moon are intended. Grotius supposes that the name Gad means the same as the goddess Fortune, which was worshipped by the Hebrews, Chaldeans, and Arabians; and that Meni means a divinity of that name, which Strabo says was worshipped in Armenia and Phrygia. Other opinions may be seen in Vitringa. That two idols are intended here, there can be no doubt. For,
1. The circumstance mentioned of their preparing a table for them, and pouring out a drink-offering, is expressive of idolatry.
2. The connection implies this, as the reproof in this chapter is to a considerable extent for their idolatry.
3. The universal opinion of expositors, though they have varied in regard to the idols intended, proves this.
Aben Ezra, Kimchi, and the rabbis generally suppose that by Gad the planet Jupiter was intended, which they say was worshipped throughout the East as the god of fortune, and this is now the prevalent opinion. The word גד gad, says Gesenius, means fortune, especially the god Fortune, which was worshipped in Babylon. He supposes that it was the same idol which was also called Baal or Bel (compare the notes at Isaiah 46:1), and that by this name the planet Jupiter - Stella Jovis - was intended, which was regarded throughout the East as the genius and giver of good fortune, hence called by the Arabians bona fortuna major - 'the greater good fortune.' The word 'Meni,' on the other hand, Gesenius supposes to denote the planet Venus, called in the East bolla fortuna minor - 'the lesser good fortune.' The Vulgate renders this, Fortunae - 'To Fortune.' The Septuagint, Τῷ δαιμονίῳ tō daimoniō - 'To a demon;' though, in the corresponding member, Meni is rendered by τῇ τύχῃ tē tuchē - 'To Fortune,' and it is possible that the order of the words has been inverted, and that they meant to render the word Gad by Fortune. The Chaldee renders it simply, לטעון leṭa‛evân - 'To idols.' It is agreed on all hands that some idol is here referred to that was extensively worshipped in the East; and the general impression is, that it was an idol representing Fortune. But whether it was the Sun, or the planet Jupiter, is not easy to determine.
That it was customary to place a table before the idol has been already remarked, and is expressly affirmed by Jerome. 'In all cities,' says he, 'and especially in Egypt, and in Alexandria, it was an ancient custom of idolatry, that on the last day of the year, and of the last month, they placed a table filled with food of various kinds, and a cup containing wine and honey mixed together - poculum mulso mistum - either as an expression of thankfulness for the fertility of the past year, or invoking fertility for the coming year.' Thus Herodotus (iii. 18) also describes the celebrated table of the sun in Ethiopia. 'What they call the table of the sun was this: A plain in the vicinity of the city was filled, to the height of four feet, with roasted flesh of all kinds of animals, which was carried there in the night under the inspection of magistrates; during the day, whoever pleased was at liberty to go and satisfy his hunger. The natives of the place affirm that the earth spontaneously produces all these viands; this, however, is what they call the table of the sun.'
And that furnish the drink-offering - In all ancient worship, it was customary to pour out a libation, or a drink-offering. This was done among idolaters, to complete the idea of a repast. As they placed food before the idols, so they also poured out wine before them, with the idea of propitiating them (see the notes at Isaiah 57:6).
To that number - Margin, 'Meni.' The phrase, 'to that number' evidently conveys no idea, and it would have been much better to have retained the name Meni, without any attempt to translate it. The rendering, 'to that number' was adopted because the word מני menı̂y is derived from מנה mânâh, to allot, to appoint, to number. Various opinions also have been entertained in regard to this. Rosenmuller and many others suppose that the moon is intended, and it has been supposed that the name Meni was given to that luminary because it numbered the months, or divided the time. Bynaeus and David Mills have endeavored to demonstrate that this was the moon, and that this was extensively worshipped in Eastern nations. Vitringa supposes that it was the same deity which was worshipped by the Syrians and Philistines by the name of Astarte, or Ashtaroth, as it is called in the Scripture; or as οὐρανίης ouraniēs, the queen of heaven; and if the name Gad be supposed to represent the sun, the name Meni will doubtless represent the moon.
The goddess Ashtaroth or Astarte, was a goddess of the Sidonians, and was much worshipped in Syria and Phenicia. Solomon introduced her worship in Jerusalem 1 Kings 11:33. Three hundred priests were constantly employed in her service at Hierapolis in Syria. She was called 'the queen of heaven;' and is usually mentioned in connection with Baal. Gesenius supposes that the planet Venus is intended, regarded as the source of good fortune, and worshipped extensively in connection with the planet Jupiter, especially in the regions of Babylonia. It seems to be agreed that the word refers to the worship of either the moon or the planet Venus, regarded as the goddess of good fortune. It is not very material which is intended, nor is it easy to determine. The works referred to above may be consulted for a more full examination of the subject than is consistent with the design of these notes. The leading idea of the prophet is, that they were deeply sunken and debased in thus forsaking Yahweh, and endeavoring to propitiate the favor of idol-gods.
Therefore will I number you to the sword, and ye shall all bow down to the slaughter: because when I called, ye did not answer; when I spake, ye did not hear; but did evil before mine eyes, and did choose that wherein I delighted not.Therefore will I number you to the sword - There is undoubtedly an allusion here to the idol Meni mentioned in Isaiah 65:11, and a play upon the name, in accordance with a custom quite common in the sacred Scriptures. The word מניתי mâniytiy, 'I will number,' is derived from מנה mânâh, the same word from which מני menı̂y, is derived. The idea is, since they worshipped a god whose name denoted number - perhaps one who was supposed to number or appoint the fates of people - God would number them. He would determine their destiny. It would not be done by any idol that was supposed to preside over the destinies of people; not by blind fate, or by anyone of the heavenly bodies, but it would be by an intelligent and holy God. And thus numbering or determining their lot would not be in accordance with their expectations, imparting to them a happy fortune, but would be devoting them to the sword; that is, to destruction. The allusion is, probably, to the calamities which God afterward brought on them by the invasion of the Chaldeans.
And ye shall all bow down to the slaughter - This is evidently strong, and probably hyperbolic language, meaning that a large portion of the nation would be cut off by the sword. The allusion here is, I think, to the slaughter of the Jewish people in the invasion of the Chaldeans. The evil of idolatry prevailed, in the time of Isaiah, under the reign of Manasseh; and in the time of Zedekiah it had increased so much even in Jerusalem, that it was said, 'All the chief priests and the people transgressed very much after all the abominations of the pagan; and polluted the house of the Lord which he had hallowed in Jerusalem .... And they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, until there was no remedy. Therefore he brought upon them the king of the Chaldeans, who killed their young people with the sword, in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old man or him that stooped for age; he gave them all into their hand 2 Chronicles 36:14, 2 Chronicles 36:16-17. It is possible, also, that this is intended to express a more general truth, and to intimate that when his people forsake him he will punish them; but the primary reference, it is proable, was to the slaughter caused by the Babylonians when they destroyed Jerusalem.
Because when I called - When I called you by the prophets to repentance and to my service (see Proverbs 1:24 ff.)
Ye did not answer - You showed the same disregard and contempt which a child does who suffers a parent to call him, and who pays no attention to it. One of the chief aggravations of human guilt is, that the sinner pays no attention to the calls of God. He pretends not to hear; or he hears to disregard it. No more decided contempt can be shown to the Almighty; no deeper proof of the stupidity and guilt of people can be furnished.
But did evil before mine eyes - (See the notes at Isaiah 65:3).
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, my servants shall eat, but ye shall be hungry: behold, my servants shall drink, but ye shall be thirsty: behold, my servants shall rejoice, but ye shall be ashamed:Therefore, thus saith the Lord God - The design of this verse is to show what would be the difference between those who kept and those who forsook his commandments. The one would be objects of his favor, and have abundance; the other would be objects of his displeasure, and be subjected to the evils of poverty, grief, and want.
My servants shall eat - Shall have abundance. They shall be objects of my favor.
But ye - Ye who revolt from me, and who worship idols.
Shall be hungry - Shall be subjected to the evils of want. The idea is, that the one should partake of his favor; the other should be punished.
Behold, my servants shall sing for joy of heart, but ye shall cry for sorrow of heart, and shall howl for vexation of spirit.Shall sing for joy of heart - They who serve me shall have abundant occasion of rejoicing. But ye - shall howl. You shall shriek under the anguish and distress that shall come upon you.
For vexation of spirit - Margin, as in Hebrew, 'Breaking.' That is, your spirit shall be broken and crushed under the weight of the calamities that shall come upon you.
And ye shall leave your name for a curse unto my chosen: for the Lord GOD shall slay thee, and call his servants by another name:And ye shall leave your name for a curse unto my chosen - To my people; to those whom I have selected to be my friends. The word rendered here 'curse' (שׁבועה shebû‛âh) means properly "an oath," or "a swearing"; and then "an imprecation" or "a curse" (see Numbers 5:21; Daniel 9:11). The sense here seems to be, that their punishment would be so great that it would become the subject of imprecation when others wished to bind themselves in the most solemn manner by an oath. The pious, who wished to confirm a promise or a covenant in the most solemn manner, would say, 'If we do not perform the promise, then let us experience the same punishment at the hand of God which they have done' (compare Jeremiah 29:22). Or it may mean, that their name would be used proverbially, like that of Sodom, as a signal example of wickedness and of the abhorrence of God.
And call his servants by another name - So disgraceful and dishonorable shall be that name, that Yahweh will apply another name to his people. Is there not an allusion here to the designed change of the name by which the people of God are known? Has it not been by the special providence of God that his true people are now known by another appellation? Is there any name on earth now that is more the subject of reproach and execration than all the appellations by which his ancient people were known? The name Jew - what ideas does it convey to all the nations of the earth? It is connected with reproach; a name regarded as belonging to a people accursed by God; a name more universally detested than any other known among people. And was it not because this name would be thus dishonored, reproached, and despised, that another was given to the true people of God - the name CHRISTIAN - an honored name - denoting true attachment to the Messiah?
That he who blesseth himself in the earth shall bless himself in the God of truth; and he that sweareth in the earth shall swear by the God of truth; because the former troubles are forgotten, and because they are hid from mine eyes.That he who blesseth himself in the earth - That is, he who shall invoke blessings on himself.
Shall bless himself in the God of truth - Or by the true God. He shall not seek a blessing from a false god; but he shall come before the true God, and seek a blessing at his hand.
And he that sweareth - Every oath that is taken in the land shall be by the true God. There shall be no swearing by idols; but the true God shall be everywhere acknowledged.
Because the former troubles are forgotten - The former punishments and calamities shall be passed away. The favor of God shall be restored. His pure worship shall be re-established, and his name shall be celebrated again in the land. The image here is one of returning prosperity and favor; a state when the happiness will be so great that all the former trials will be regarded as not worthy of recollection.
For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.For behold - The idea in this verse is, that there should be a state of glory as great as if a new heaven and a new earth were to be made.
I create new heavens - Calamity and punishment in the Bible are often represented by the heavens growing dark, and being rolled up like as a scroll, or passing away (see the notes at Isaiah 13:10; Isaiah 34:4). On the contrary, prosperity, happiness, and the divine favor, are represented by the clearing up of a cloudy sky; by the restoration of the serene and pure light of the sun; or, as here, by the creation of new heavens (compare the notes at Isaiah 51:16). The figure of great transformations in material things is one that is often employed in the Scriptures, and especially in Isaiah, to denote great spiritual changes (see Isaiah 11; Isaiah 51:3; Isaiah 35:1-2, Isaiah 35:7; Isaiah 60:13, Isaiah 60:17). In the New Testament, the phrase used here is employed to denote the future state of the righteous; but whether on earth, after it shall have been purified by fire, or in heaven, has been a subject of great difference of opinion (see 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1).
The passage before us is highly poetical, and we are not required to understand it literally. There is, so far as the language is concerned, no more reason for understanding this literally than there is for so understanding the numerous declarations which affirm that the brute creation will undergo a change in their very nature, on the introduction of the gospel Isaiah 11; and all that the language necessarily implies is, that there would be changes in the condition of the people of God as great as if the heavens, overcast with clouds and subject to storms, should be recreated, so as to become always mild and serene; or as if the earth, so barren in many places, should become universally fertile and beautiful. The immediate reference here is, doubtless, to the land of Palestine, and to the important changes which would be produced there on the return of the exiles; but it cannot be doubted that, under this imagery, there was couched a reference to far more important changes and blessings in future times under the Messiah - changes as great as if a barren and sterile world should become universally beautiful and fertile.
For the former shall not be remembered - That is, that which shall be created shall be so superior in beauty as entirely to eclipse the former. The sense is, that the future condition of the people of God would be as superior to what it was in ancient times as would be a newly created earth and heaven superior in beauty to this - where the heavens are so often obscured by clouds, and where the earth is so extensively desolate or barren.
Nor come into mind - Margin, as Hebrew, 'Upon the heart.' That is, it shall not be thought of; it shall be wholly forgotten. On this verse, compare the notes at Isaiah 51:16.
But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.But be ye glad and rejoice - (See the notes at Isaiah 51:11).
Forever - It is not to be momentary happiness - like a bright morning that is soon overcast with clouds. The joy of God's people is to endure for ever, and they shall have ceaseless cause of praise and thanksgiving.
I create Jerusalem a rejoicing - A source of rejoicing; or a place of rejoicing.
And her people a joy - That is, in themselves joyful, and a source of joy to all others. The idea is, that the church would be a place of the highest happiness, and that they who were redeemed would have occasion of perpetual joy. The Saviour did not come to minister gloom, nor is the true effect of religion to make his people melancholy. Religion produces seriousness; but seriousness is not inconsistent with permanent happiness. Religion produces deep thought and soberness of deportment and conversation; but this is not inconsistent with a heart at ease, or with a good conscience, or with permanent joy. Religion fills the mind with hope of eternal life; and the highest happiness which the soul can know must be in connection with the prospect of unchanging blessedness beyond the grave.
And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying.And I will rejoice in Jerusalem - (See the notes at Isaiah 62:5).
And the voice of weeping shall no more be heard - (See the notes at Isaiah 25:7-8).
There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed.There shall be no more thence - The Septuagint, the Syriac, and the Vulgate, read this, 'There shall not be there.' The change requires the omission of a single letter in the present Hebrew text, and the sense seems to demand it. The design of the prophet here is, to describe the times of happiness and prosperity which would succeed the calamities under which the nation had been suffering. This he does by a great variety of images, all denoting substantially the same thing. In Isaiah 65:17, the change is represented to be as great as if a new heaven and a new earth should be created; in this verse the image is, that the inhabitants would reach a great age, and that the comparatively happy times of the patriarchs would be restored; in Isaiah 65:21, the image is taken from the perfect security in their plans of labor, and the fact that they would enjoy the fruit of their toil; in Isaiah 65:25, the image employed is that taken from the change in the nature of the animal creation. All these are poetic images designed as illustrations of the general truth, and, like other poetic images, they are not to be taken literally.
An infant of days - A child; a sucking child. So the Hebrew word, עול ‛ûl, denotes. The Septuagint renders it, 'Nor shall there be there anymore an untimely birth (ἄωρος aōros) and an old man who has not filled up his time.' The idea is not that there should be no infant in those future times - which would be an idea so absurd that a prophet would not use it even in poetic fiction - but that there will not be an infant who shall not fill up his days, or who will be short-lived. All shall live long, and all shall be blessed with health, and continual vigor and youth.
Nor an old man that hath not filled his days - They shall enjoy the blessings of great longevity, and that not a longevity that shall be broken and feeble, but which shall be vigorous and happy. In further illustration of this sentiment, we may remark,
1. That there is no reason to suppose that it will be literally fulfilled even in the millenium. If it is to be regarded as literally to be fulfilled, then for the same reason we are to suppose that in that time the nature of the lion will be literally changed, and that he will eat straw like the ox, and that the nature of the wolf and the lamb will be so far changed that they shall lie down together Isaiah 65:25. But there is no reason to suppose this; nor is there any good reason to suppose that literally no infant or child will die in those times, or that no old man will be infirm, or that all will live to the same great age.
2. The promise of long life is regarded in the Bible as a blessing, and is an image, everywhere, of prosperity and happiness. Thus the patriarchs were regarded as having been highly-favored people, because God lengthened out their days; and throughout the Scriptures it is represented as a proof of the favor of God, that a man is permitted to live long, and to see a numerous posterity (see Genesis 45:10; Psalm 21:4; Psalm 23:6; Psalm 128:6 (Hebrew); Psalm 91:16; Proverbs 3:2-14; Proverbs 17:6.
3. No one can doubt that the prevalence of the gospel everywhere would greatly lengthen out the life of man. Let anyone reflect on the great number that are now cut off in childhood in pagan lands by their parents, all of whom would have been spared had their parents been Christians; on the numbers of children who are destroyed in early life by the effects of the intemperance of their parents, most of whom would have survived if their parents had been virtuous; on the numbers of young men now cut down by vice, who would have continued to live if they had been under the influence of the gospel; on the immense hosts cut off, and most of them in middle life, by war, who would have lived to a good old age if the gospel had prevailed and put a period to wars; on the million who are annually cut down by intemperance and lust, and other raging passions, by murder and piracy, or who are punished by death for crime; on the million destroyed by pestilential disease sent by offended heaven on guilty nations; and let him reflect that these sources of death will be dried up by the prevalence of pure virtue and religion, and he will see that a great change may yet take place literally in the life of man.
4. A similar image is used by the classic writers to denote a golden age, or an age of great prosperity and happiness. Thus the Sybil, in the Sybilline Oracles, B. vii., speaking of the future age, says, Στήσει δὲ τὸ γένος, ὡς πάρος ἦν σοι Stēsei de to genos, hōs paros ēn soi - 'A race shall be restored as it was in the ancient times.' So Hesiod, describing the silver age, introduces a boy as having reached the age of an hundred years, and yet but a child:
Ἀλλ ̓ ἑκατόν μὲν παῖς ἔτεα παρὰ μητέρι κεδνρ,
Ἐτρέφετ ἀτάλλων υέγα νήπιος ὦ ἔνι οἴκῳ.
All' hekaton men tais etea para mēteri kednr,
Etrephet atallōn mega nēpios ō eni oikō.
For the child shall die an hundred years old - That is, he that is an hundred years old when he dies, shall still be a child or a youth. This is nearly the same sentiment which is expressed by Hesiod, as quoted above. The prophet has evidently in his eye the longevity of the patriarchs, when an individual of an hundred years of age was comparatively young - the proportion between that and the usual period of life then being about the same as that between the age of ten and the usual period of life now. We are not, I apprehend, to suppose that this is to be taken literally, but it is figurative language, designed to describe the comparatively happy state referred to by the prophet, as if human life should be lengthened out to the age of the patriarchs, and as if he who is now regarded as an old man, should then be regarded as in the vigor of his days. At the same time it is true, that the influence of temperance, industry, and soberness of life, such as would exist if the rules of the gospel were obeyed, would carry forward the vigor of youth far into advancing years, and mitigate most of the evils now incident to the decline of life.
The few imperfect experiments which have been made of the effect of entire temperance and of elevated virtue; of subduing the passions by the influence of the gospel, and of prudent means for prolonging health and life, such as the gospel will prompt a man to use, who has any just view of the value of life, show what may yet be done in happier times. It is an obvious reflection here, that if such effects are to be anticipated from the prevalence of true religion and of temperance, then he is the best friend of man who endeavors most sedulously to bring others under the influence of the gospel, and to extend the principles of temperance and virtue. The gospel of Christ would do more to prolong human life than all other causes combined; and when that prevails everywhere, putting a period, as it must, to infanticide, and war, and intemperance, and murder, and piracy, and suicide, and duelling, and raging and consuming passions, then it is impossible for the most vivid imagination to conceive the effect which shall be produced on the health and long life, as well as on the happiness of mankind.
But the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed - The sense of this appears to be, 'not all who reach to a great age shall be judged to be the friends and favorites of God. Though a sinner shall reach that advanced period of life, yet he shall be cursed of God and shall be cut down in his sins. He shall be held to be a sinner and shall die, and shall be regarded as accursed.' Other interpretations of this expression may be seen in Poole and in Vitringa. The above seems to me to be the true exposition.
And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them.And they shall build houses - (See the notes at Isaiah 62:8-9).
They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.They shall not build, and another inhabit - Every man shall enjoy the avails of his labor.
For as the days I of a tree are the days of my people - That is, in that future time, such shall be the length of the lives of the people (see Isaiah 65:21). The Septuagint renders this, 'The days of the tree of life.' The Syriac, 'As the days of trees.' The Chaldee as the Septuagint. The idea is, that the lives of his people would be greatly prolonged (see the notes at Isaiah 65:20). A tree is among the most long-lived of material objects. The oak, the terebinth, the cypress, the cedar, the banyan, attain to a great age. Many trees also live to a much longer period than a thousand years. The Baobab tree of Senegal (Adansonia digitata) is supposed to attain the age of several thousand years. Adanson inferred that one which he measured, and found to be thirty feet in diameter, had attained the age of 5150 years. Having made an incision to a certain depth, he first counted three hundred rings of annual growth, and observed what thickness the tree had gained in that period. The average rate of growth of younger trees, of the same species, was then ascertained, and the calculation made according to a supposed mean rate of increase. De Candolle considers it not improbable that the celebrated Taxodium, of Chapultepec, in Mexico, which is 117 feet in circumference, may be still more aged. In Macartney's Embassy to China, i. 131, an account is given of a tree of this description, which was found to be at the base no less than fifty-six feet in girth. On the longevity of trees, see Bibliotheca Univ., May 1831, quoted in Lyell's Geology, ii. 261. The idea here is, simply, that his people would attain to an age like that of the trees of the forest; that is, that the state of things under the Messiah would be as if human life were greatly prolonged (see the notes at Isaiah 65:20).
And mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands - Margin, 'Make them continue long,' or 'wear out.' The word used here (יבלוּ yeballû from בלה bâlâh) means properly to fall, to fall away, to fail; to wear out, to wax old Deuteronomy 8:4; Deuteronomy 29:4; Isaiah 50:9; Isaiah 51:6; hence, in Piel, to consume. The idea here is, that they would live to consume; that is, to enjoy the productions of their own labor. Their property should not be wrested from them by injurious taxation, or by plunder; but they would be permitted long to possess it, until they should wear it out, or until it should be consumed. Vulgate, 'The works of their hands shall be of long continuance (inveterabunt),' or shall be kept a long time. The Septuagint, 'For the works of their labors (των πόνων tōn ponōn) shall become old, or of long continuance (παλαιώσου palaiōsousin).' See the notes at Isaiah 62:8-9.
They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the LORD, and their offspring with them.They shall not labor in vain - That is, either because their land shall be unfruitful, or because others shall plunder them.
Nor bring forth for trouble - Lowth renders this, 'Neither shall they generate a short-lived race.' Noyes, 'Nor bring forth children for an early death.' The Septuagint renders it, Οὐδὲ τεκνοποιήσουσιν εἰς κατάραν Oude teknopoiēsousin eis kataran - 'Nor shall they bring forth children for a curse.' The Chaldee, 'Nor shall they nourish them for death.' There can be no doubt that this refers to their posterity, and that the sense is, that they should not be the parents of children who would be subject to an early death or to a curse. The word rendered here 'bring forth' (ילדוּ yēledû) is a word that uniformly means to bear, to bring forth as a mother, or to beget as a father. And the promise here is, that which would be so grateful to parental feelings, that their posterity would be long-lived and respected. The word rendered here 'trouble' (בהלה behâlâh) means properly "terror," and then the effect of terror, or that which causes terror, sudden destruction. It is derived from בהל bâhal, to trouble, to shake, to be in trepidation, to flee, and then to punish suddenly; and the connection here seems to require the sense that their children should not be devoted to sudden destruction.
For they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord - (See the notes at Isaiah 59:21).
And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.Before they call, I will answer - That is, their desires shall be anticipated, God will see their needs, and he will impart to them the blessings which they need. He will not wait to be applied to for the blessing. How many such blessings do all his people receive at the hand of God! How ready is he to anticipate our needs! How watchful is he of our necessities; and how rich his benevolence in providing for us! Even the most faithful and prayerful of his people receive numerous favors and comforts at his hand for which they have not directly asked him. The prayer for the supply of our daily food, 'Give us this day our daily bread,' God had anticipated, and had prepared the means of answering it, long before, in the abundant harvest. Had he waited until the prayer was offered, it could not have been answered without a miracle. Ever watchful, he anticipates our necessities, and in his providence and grace lays the foundation for granting the favor long before we ask him.
And while they are yet speaking, I will hear - So it was with Daniel (Daniel 9:20-21; compare Psalm 32:5). So it was with the early disciples when they were assembled in an upper room in Jerusalem, and when the Spirit of God descended with great power on the day of Pentecost Acts 2:1-2. So when Paul and Silas, in the prison at Philippi, 'prayed and sang praises to God,' he heard them and came for their rescue Acts 16:25-26. So it has often been - and especially in revivals of religion. When his people have been deeply impressed with a sense of the languishing state of religion; when they have gone unitedly before God and implored a blessing; God has heard their prayers, and even while they were speaking has begun a work of grace. Hundreds of such instances have occurred, alike demonstrating the faithfulness of God to his promises, and suited to encourage his people, and to excite them to prayer. It is one of the precious promises pertaining to the blessings of the reign of the Messiah, that the answer of prayer shall be immediate - and for this his people should look, and this they should expect. God can as easily answer prayer at once as to delay it; and when the proper state of mind exists, he is as ready to answer it now as to defer it to a future time. What encouragement have we to pray! How faithful, how fervent should we be in our supplications! How full of guilt are we if one single blessing is witcheld from our world that might have been imparted if we had prayed as we ought; if one single soul shall be lost who might have been saved if we had not been unfaithful in prayer!
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.The wolf and the lamb shall feed together - (See the notes at Isaiah 11.)
And the lion shall eat straw - Shall eat hay or provender like the ox. The food of the lion now is flesh. Changes shall take place as great as if his nature were changed, and he should graze with the herds of the field. See a full illustration of this sentiment from the classic writors in the notes at Isaiah 11:6.
Like the bullock - Or the ox - the cattle that herd together - for so the Hebrew word (בקר bâqâr) means. The word may be app ied to a bullock, an ox, or a cow.
And dust shall be the serpent's meat - There is evidently here an allusion to the sentence pronounced on the serpent in Genesis 3:14. The meaning of the declaration here is, probably, that dust should continue to be the food of the serpent. The sentence on him should be perpetual. He should not be injurious to man - either by tempting him again, or by the venom of his fangs. The state of security would be as great under the Messiah as if the most deadly and poisonous kinds of reptiles should become wholly innoxious, and should not attempt to prey upon people. It is to be remembered that many of the serpent kind included under the general word used here (נחשׁ nāchâsh), were dangerous to people; and indeed a large portion of them are deadly in their bite. But in future times there will be a state of security as great as if the whole serpent tribe were innocuous and should live on the dust alone. There can be no doubt that the prophet means here to describe the passions and evil propensities of people, which have a strong resemblance to the ferocity of the wolf, or the lion, and the deadly poison of the serpent, and to say that those passions would be subdued, and that peace and concord would prevail on the earth (see the notes at Isaiah 11:8).
They shall not hurt nor destroy - See this explained in the notes at Isaiah 11:9. All this is partially realized wherever the gospel prevails, but it will be more fully realized when that gospel shall exert its full power and shall be spread around the world.