Isaiah 66
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. 66. The Eternal Blessedness of the True Israel; the Doom of the Apostates

This chapter continues the antithesis that runs through ch. 65, carrying it onward to its eschatological issues. The connexion of ideas is frequently extremely difficult to trace, and no two critics are agreed as to where the different sections begin and end. The contents of the passage, however, may be exhibited as follows:

i. Isaiah 66:1-4. The chapter begins with a remarkable declaration against a formal and unspiritual ceremonial. Addressing those who contemplate the erection of a Temple in His honour, Jehovah points out how inadequate any earthly house must necessarily be to His majesty, and reminds them that the only worship acceptable in His sight is that which proceeds from a humble, contrite and reverent spirit (Isaiah 66:1-2). How little this condition is fulfilled by those referred to is shewn by a rapid survey of the superstitious practices which, in direct defiance of the Divine Law, they seek to combine with the service of Jehovah (Isaiah 66:3). Sentence is pronounced against them on account of their disobedience (Isaiah 66:4).

ii. Isaiah 66:5-9. Turning from these, Jehovah speaks to those who comply with the requirement of Isaiah 66:2, assuring them of a speedy triumph over their insolent persecutors, and announcing, under the figure of a new birth, a sudden and marvellous increase of the population of Zion.

iii. Isaiah 66:10-14. Peace and joy shall reign in the new Jerusalem, and those who sympathise with and mourn for her present distress are invited to share in her future consolation.

iv. Isaiah 66:15-17. A renewed description of the judgement (expanding the thought of Isaiah 66:6). The judgement is universal (“with all flesh”), but special emphasis is laid on the fate of the apostates so often appearing in the last two chapters (Isaiah 66:17).

v. Isaiah 66:18-22. The judgement is followed by a manifestation of Jehovah’s glory to all nations (Isaiah 66:18). The survivors of the nearer nations, who have witnessed the catastrophe, shall be sent as messengers to the more distant countries (Isaiah 66:19); these shall then voluntarily bring back to Zion the dispersed Israelites (Isaiah 66:20); and from amongst them (the restored exiles or the converted heathen?) some shall be chosen as ministers of the sanctuary (Isaiah 66:21). Israel, thus reconstituted, shall be as enduring as the new heavens and earth which Jehovah is about to create (Isaiah 66:22).

vi. Isaiah 66:23-24. The universality of the true religion, expressed inadequately in terms of the old dispensation as a monthly and weekly pilgrimage of all nations to the sanctuary at Jerusalem (Isaiah 66:23); with a closing reference to the appalling fate reserved for the impenitent rebels against Jehovah (Isaiah 66:24).

Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?
1, 2. Jehovah, who fills and has created heaven and earth, “dwelleth not in temples made with hands.” Comp. the citation in Acts 7:48 ff., also 1 Kings 8:27; Jeremiah 23:24.

The heaven is my throne] Psalm 11:4; Psalm 103:19.

the earth is my footstool] Hence the Temple itself (or the ark) is spoken of as Jehovah’s footstool; Lamentations 2:1; Psalm 99:5; Psalm 132:7; 1 Chronicles 28:2.

where is the house &c.] Render: what manner of house will ye build unto me? and what manner of place is my resting place (Psalm 132:8; Psalm 132:14)?

For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.
2. all these things] i.e. the heavens and the earth, the whole visible creation. That the phrase refers to the Jewish community with its religious institutions (Duhm) is a thoroughly unnatural supposition. For have been read have come into being.

but to this man will I look (have regard) &c.] Cf. ch. Isaiah 57:15.

contrite is lit. “smitten”; it is the same word which is rendered “broken” or “wounded” (of the spirit) in Proverbs 15:13; Proverbs 17:22; Proverbs 18:14. In all the other passages where “contrite” is found in the E.V. (ch. Isaiah 57:15; Psalm 34:18; Psalm 51:17) it represents a formation from another root, meaning “to be crushed.”

trembleth at my word] Cf. Isaiah 66:5; Ezra 9:4; Ezra 10:3.

These two verses contain one of the most explicit declarations of the spirituality of religion to be found in the O.T., anticipating the principle enunciated by our Lord in John 4:24. It is not surprising that commentators have differed widely as to their precise significance in their present connexion. (1) The opinion of a few writers, that the prophet enters a protest against the rebuilding of the Temple at Jerusalem and desiderates a pure spiritual worship without sanctuary or sacrifice, is quite untenable. It is certain that no conception that would lead to a disparaging estimate of the Temple and its services can be attributed either to the second Isaiah or to any of his successors. (see to the contrary, ch. Isaiah 44:28, Isaiah 56:5; Isaiah 56:7, Isaiah 60:7, Isaiah 66:6; Isaiah 66:20 f. &c.) The idea suggested lies entirely beyond the most spiritual writers in the O.T.; and in the passages most nearly akin to this (e.g. Psalm 40:6; Psalm 50:8-15; Psalm 51:16 f.) there is no suggestion that a material sanctuary and ritual could be dispensed with. (2) Hitzig and some others have supposed a reference to a project entertained by some of the exiles to erect a Temple of Jehovah in Babylonia. Not only, however, is the assumption absolutely destitute of historical evidence, but it is almost incredible that such an intention should have entered the thoughts of any Jews in exile. (3) If the passage was written in the near prospect of a return to Palestine, there is but one explanation which is at all plausible. The prophet is thinking of the character of the mass of the people who are eagerly looking forward to the restoration of the national worship; and he warns them that Jehovah needs no temple, and that their whole service of Him will be vitiated by the want of a right religious disposition. In other words, the polemic is directed not against the existence of the Temple in itself, but against the building of it being undertaken by such men as those addressed. (4) If, on the other hand, the prophecy was written some time after the restoration, it seems impossible to evade the conclusion reached by Duhm and Cheyne, that the reference is to a design of the Samaritans to erect a rival temple to that of Jerusalem. This theory is perhaps less improbable than it may at first sight appear. In the first place we know that such a temple was actually erected on Mt. Gerizim some time after Nehemiah’s second reformation in Judæa (see Ryle’s note on Nehemiah 13:28); and it is to be supposed that the project had been talked of for some time previously. Nor is it any formidable objection to say that the argument here employed would tell equally against the pretensions of the sanctuary at Jerusalem. The prophet’s assertion must in any case be qualified by the fundamental principle of the Jewish religion that the validity of every act of worship rests on the positive enactment of Jehovah. While Jehovah needs no human service, He is graciously pleased to accept it if rendered in accordance with His expressed will. Now this sanction had been bestowed on the one sanctuary at Jerusalem, but could not possibly belong to any temple built elsewhere. The erection of such a temple could only be justified on the assumption that man could arbitrarily assign a dwelling-place to the Most High, and to show the futility of this assumption is the purpose of the prophet’s lofty declaration. The question turns largely on the interpretation of Isaiah 66:3. If that verse is rightly understood to mean that the worship of the parties spoken of was really infected by degrading superstitions, it may well be that the persons described are the Samaritans, and in that case it will follow almost of necessity that these are also addressed in Isaiah 66:1. At the same time, it must be admitted that if the erection of a schismatic Temple were referred to, we should have expected a much more explicit and vigorous condemnation of the project.

He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog's neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine's blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations.
3. The first part of the verse runs literally thus: “The slaughterer of the ox, a slayer of a man; the sacrificer of the sheep, a breaker of a dog’s neck; the offerer of an oblation,—swine’s blood; the maker of a memorial of incense, one that blesseth vanity (i.e. an idol)”;—four legitimate sacrificial acts being bracketed with four detestable idolatrous rites. The first member of each pair is probably to be taken as subj., the second as pred., of a sentence. But this leaves open a choice between two interpretations. (a) That the legal sacrificial action is as hateful in the sight of God as the idolatrous rite, so long as it is performed by unspiritual worshippers. (b) That he who does the first series of actions does also the second, i.e. combines the service of Jehovah with the most hateful idolatries. It is extremely difficult to decide which is the true sense. The words “as if” in E.V. are of course supplied by the translators, but the rendering is a perfectly fair one. The one fact that favours the second explanation (b) is that the latter part of the verse speaks of those who “delight in their abominations.” Unless there be a complete break in the middle of the verse, which is unlikely, this would seem to imply that the abominations enumerated were actually practised by certain persons, who at the same time claimed to be worshippers of Jehovah. Cf. Isaiah 66:17, Isaiah 65:3-5, Isaiah 57:3-9.

as if he slew a man] The reference may be either to murder merely or to human sacrifice; most probably the latter, since every other member of the sentence expresses a religious act. That human sacrifice was actually perpetrated by those spoken of may be safely inferred from ch. Isaiah 57:5.

breaketh a dog’s neck] “This sacrifice … seems … to be alluded to as a Punic rite in Justin xviii. 1. 10, where we read that Darius sent a message to the Carthaginians forbidding them to sacrifice human victims and to eat the flesh of dogs: in the connexion a religious meal must be understood.” (W. R. Smith, Rel. of the Semites2, p. 291.) The whole paragraph should be consulted for other important references to the sacredness of the dog amongst the Semites. See also the note in Cheyne’s Commentary.

he that offereth an oblation (see on ch. Isaiah 1:13) (offereth) swine’s blood] See on ch. Isaiah 65:4.

burneth incense] R.V. marg. maketh a memorial of incense. The Hebr. verb (hizkîr) is connected with ’azkârâh, the technical name of the part of the meal offering which had to be burned with incense on the altar (cf. Leviticus 2:2; Leviticus 24:7).

blesseth an idol] Lit. “vanity,” but the rendering rightly expresses the sense; cf. ch. Isaiah 41:29.

Yea, they have chosen &c.] These clauses form the protasis to (Isaiah 66:4. Render: As they have chosen … (Isaiah 66:4) so will I choose &c.

I also will choose] with the same shade of meaning as in Isaiah 66:3 (“will find satisfaction in”). “The Orientals are fond of such antitheses” (Gesenius).

I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not.
4. delusions] Perhaps insults; see on ch. Isaiah 3:4. Cheyne renders expressively “freaks of fortune,” remarking, “the word is very peculiar: it represents calamity under the figure of a petulant child.”

their fears] i.e. “that which they fear,” and strive to avert by their magical rites.

because when I called &c.] Repeated from ch. Isaiah 65:12.

Hear the word of the LORD, ye that tremble at his word; Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name's sake, said, Let the LORD be glorified: but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed.
5, 6. A promise to the believing Jews, that they shall speedily witness the discomfiture of their enemies and persecutors.

ye that tremble at his word]—thus fulfilling the condition of Isaiah 66:2. The “word” of the Lord is that spoken by the prophets, and the “trembling” of these devout hearers expresses their scrupulous anxiety to conform with its requirements.

your brethren] men of the same stock with yourselves. The term could not be applied to the known leaders of the Samaritan community, like Sanballat and Tobiah (Nehemiah 2:10 &c.), but might be used of the community as a whole, composed as it largely was of men of Israelitish descent and, in part, probably of Jews who had been spared in the general deportation of the people.

that hate you] as R.V. Cf. ch. Isaiah 57:4.

that cast you out] Perhaps “that put you far away” (in aversion). Comp. the use of the word in Amos 6:3 (“that put far away the evil day”). In later Hebr. it means to excommunicate.

said, Let the Lord &c.] Render: have said, Let Jehovah shew Himself glorious (pointing the verb as Niph.) that we may see your joy (cf. R.V.),—a sarcastic allusion to the enthusiastic hopes entertained by the pious Jews of a manifestation of Jehovah to their joy. Cf. ch. Isaiah 5:19.

but they shall be ashamed] Ch. Isaiah 65:13.

A voice of noise from the city, a voice from the temple, a voice of the LORD that rendereth recompence to his enemies.
6. Description of the sudden outbreak of Jehovah’s destructive might from His city and sanctuary (cf. Amos 1:2; Joel 3:16; ch. Isaiah 33:14). A noise of uproar from the city! A noise from the temple! The noise of Jehovah rendering recompence (see on Isaiah 59:18) to His enemies! (those referred to in Isaiah 66:5). That these words presuppose the existence of the Temple is certainly the most natural interpretation. The thought of the verse is resumed in Isaiah 66:15-16; the verses immediately following pass abruptly to a different subject.

Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child.
7–9. The sudden repopulation of the city by her children. The figure is taken from ch. Isaiah 49:17-21, Isaiah 54:1; the fact set forth being the instantaneous return of the exiled Israelites, by which, without effort, the poor and struggling Jewish community becomes at once a great nation.

Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.
8. Shall the earth &c.] Render: Shall (the people of) a land be travailed with in one day? For “land” in the sense of “population” there do not seem to be any real parallels; Jdg 18:30 is hardly a case in point. Possibly the word for “people” (‘am) should be inserted (Duhm).

Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? saith the LORD: shall I cause to bring forth, and shut the womb? saith thy God.
9. Comp. ch. Isaiah 37:3; “the children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth.” But in this crisis Jehovah Himself is present, and what He begins He will carry on to its marvellous issue.

The second half of the verse should be rendered as in R.V. shall I that cause to bring forth shut the womb? &c.

Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her: rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her:
10. that mourn for her] Cf. ch. Isaiah 57:18, Isaiah 61:2-3.

10, 11. Invitation to the sorrowing children of Zion to rejoice in their mother’s consolation.

That ye may suck, and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations; that ye may milk out, and be delighted with the abundance of her glory.
11. Comp. ch. Isaiah 60:16.

abundance] The Heb. word (zîz) is of uncertain interpretation. It is found again only in Psalm 50:11; Psalm 80:13 in the phrase “beast of the field” (zîz sâday). It is doubtful, however, if the word there be identical with that in this verse. A perfect parallelism (with “breast”) would be obtained if we might translate by “udder.” Ewald and Cheyne adopt this translation, Ewald without remark, Cheyne with a reference to the Assyrian and the vulgar Arabic, where a word zîzâh is said to mean “udder” (see his Comm. p. 174, and Origin of the Psalter, pp. 472 f.).

For thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream: then shall ye suck, ye shall be borne upon her sides, and be dandled upon her knees.
12. I will extend (cf. Genesis 39:21) peace … like a river] See ch. Isaiah 48:18.

the glory of the Gentiles] the wealth of nations. Cf. ch. Isaiah 60:5, Isaiah 61:6.

borne upon the side (see on Isaiah 60:4) … the knees] So R.V. The insertion of “her” is misleading. As in Isaiah 60:4 (Isaiah 49:22) the children of Zion are represented as carried and nursed by the Gentiles.

dandled] the passive of the verb rendered “play” in ch. Isaiah 11:8; “delight” in ch. Isaiah 66:7 (R.V. marg.) is a cognate noun.

12–14. A promise of prosperity to Jerusalem and her inhabitants.

As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem.
13. A still finer image, “the grown man coming back with wounds and weariness upon him to be comforted of his mother” (G. A. Smith).

And when ye see this, your heart shall rejoice, and your bones shall flourish like an herb: and the hand of the LORD shall be known toward his servants, and his indignation toward his enemies.
14. R.V. And ye shall see (it) and your heart &c.; recalling ch. Isaiah 60:5. your bones shall flourish like the tender grass (R.V.)] i.e. shall be fresh and full of sap (cf. Job 21:24; Proverbs 15:30). So when the strength is exhausted by sickness, the bones are said to be consumed or burn (Psalm 31:10; Psalm 32:3; Psalm 102:3; Lamentations 1:13).

and his indignation] Strictly: and he will have indignation (as R.V.). A.V. would be a better construction if we might supply the suffix for “his” (so Duhm).

For, behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire.
15. with fire] in fire. Cf. Deuteronomy 5:22 ff.

and his chariots shall be like the whirlwind (R.V.)] Cf. Habakkuk 3:8; Psalm 68:17. The image is derived from the storm-clouds on which Jehovah rides; ch. Isaiah 19:1; Psalm 18:10; Psalm 68:33; Deuteronomy 33:26. The phrase is applied in Jeremiah 4:13 to the Chaldæans (or Scythians).

15, 16. In fire and tempest—the accompaniments of the theophany—Jehovah will appear to take vengeance on His enemies. There is a connexion with the last clause of Isaiah 66:14; but the passage reads like a continuation of Isaiah 66:6. Comp. ch. Isaiah 29:6, Isaiah 30:27 ff.; Psalms 50, 3.

For by fire and by his sword will the LORD plead with all flesh: and the slain of the LORD shall be many.
16. by his sword] See ch. Isaiah 27:1, Isaiah 34:5-6.

plead] i.e. “enter into judgement,” as Ezekiel 38:22; Joel 3:2. the slain of the Lord shall be many] Cf. Jeremiah 25:33; Zephaniah 2:12 (Hebr.)

They that sanctify themselves, and purify themselves in the gardens behind one tree in the midst, eating swine's flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together, saith the LORD.
17. A renewed description of the apostates, in terms similar to Isaiah 66:3, Isaiah 65:3-5; Isaiah 65:11. Although the judgement is “with all flesh” it has a special significance for these reprobates. The connexion of Isaiah 66:17 with Isaiah 66:16 is not, however, beyond suspicion.

in the gardens] for the gardens, i.e. in order to go into the sacred gardens (ch. Isaiah 65:3) where the illegal rites were to be consummated (“ad sacra in lucis obeunda”).

behind one tree in the midst] A difficult and much disputed phrase. The insertion of the word “tree” is purely gratuitous, and indefensible. If the consonantal text be sound the best rendering by far is after one in the midst; i.e. following the actions of a hierophant or mystagogue, who stands in the midst of the brotherhood and regulates the important ceremony of purification. Comp. Ezekiel 8:11, “… seventy men of the elders of the house of Israel, and in the midst of them stood Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan, with every man his censer in his hand.” There does not appear to be any valid objection to this interpretation, although it is not supported by any ancient authority. The Massoretes substitute the fem. of “one” for the masc., thinking apparently of the image of some goddess as the central object. (The Babylonian Codex and the Soncino Bible have the fem. in the text.) Many commentators, guided by a faulty reference in Macrobius (Saturn. 1. 23), have supposed that the word for “one” (אֶחָד) contains the name of a deity; but this view, although revived by Lagarde, finds little favour among modern scholars. Several ancient versions (Pesh., Sym., Theod.) render “one after another” (Targ. “company after company”), which would be possible if we might insert an additional אחד (אחד אחר אחד), but it leaves “in the midst” unexplained. Cheyne (Introd. p. 370) reads with Klostermann אחד אחד בתנך—“one (consecrating) the other on the tip of the ear”; an ingenious emendation, but hardly yielding an easier sense than the received (consonantal) text as understood above.

swine’s flesh] ch. Isaiah 65:4.

the abomination] Hebr. shéqec̨, the general name for unclean animals; Leviticus 7:21; Leviticus 9:10 ff. (passim); cf. Ezekiel 8:10. (Duhm reads shéreç, “vermin,” creeping or swarming creatures).

the mouse] an unclean animal according to Leviticus 11:29. Of the 23 species of small rodents included under the name in Palestine, several are esteemed edible by the Arabs (Tristram, Nat. Hist., pp. 122 ff.). The allusion here without doubt is to sacrificial meals, the mouse being a sacred animal in the same sense as the swine and the dog. see W. R. Smith, Rel. of Sem.2 p. 293; who mentions a statement of Maimonides that the Harranians sacrificed field-mice.

shall be consumed] shall come to an end; see on next verse.

For I know their works and their thoughts: it shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come, and see my glory.
18–22. The extension of the knowledge of Jehovah’s power to the outlying nations, and the consequent voluntary surrender of the Israelites exiled among them.

The first sentence of Isaiah 66:18 is untranslatable as it stands, and the text is certainly corrupt. A good suggestion is made by Duhm. He transfers the phrase “their works and their thoughts” to the last clause of Isaiah 66:17 (“their works and their thoughts together shall come to an end”); then dropping the fem. term. of the participle the remaining sentence reads, And I am coming to gather all the nations and tongues. Both verses are thus improved, and the new section beginning here is disentangled from its misleading association with the idea of judgement.

all nations and tongues] An expression characteristic of the Aramaic part of the Book of Daniel (ch. Isaiah 3:4 and parallels); cf. also Zechariah 8:23.

they shall come, and see my glory] i.e., probably, the visible supernatural glory of Jehovah as He dwells in the Temple. See Ezekiel 43:1-4. (The section contains many traces of the influence of the book of Ezekiel.) The idea that the nations shall assemble to be destroyed by Jehovah (Zechariah 14:2; Zechariah 14:12 ff.; Joel 3:2; Zephaniah 3:8) is alien to the tenor of the verse and is not necessarily implied by Isaiah 66:19.

And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal, and Javan, to the isles afar off, that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles.
19. I will set a sign among them] i.e. perform a miracle (ch. Isaiah 7:11) that shall convince them of Jehovah’s divinity.

I will send … them] I will send from them escaped ones, survivors (cf. Isaiah 45:20) of the judgement depicted in Isaiah 66:16. The purpose is to spread the tidings of Jehovah’s glory.

to Tarshish … Javan] All these names are taken from the book of Ezekiel; see Isaiah 27:10; Isaiah 27:12 f., Isaiah 38:1, Isaiah 39:1. So Duhm, who thinks the whole line is a gloss. Tarshish = Tartessus; see on ch. Isaiah 2:16. A name Pul occurs nowhere else, and it is doubtless here a clerical error for Put (so LXX. Φούδ). Phut and Lud are mentioned together in Jeremiah 46:9; Ezekiel 27:10; Ezekiel 30:5; and in Genesis 10:6; Genesis 10:13 both peoples are connected genealogically with Mizraim (Egypt). Probably therefore two African nations are denoted.

that draw the bow] The bow is mentioned as the weapon of the Lydians (Lud) in Jeremiah 46:9. The LXX. reads Μόσοχ (Meshech). This is attractive, because of the resemblance to môshěkê (drawing), and because Meshech and Tubal are nearly always associated (Genesis 10:2; Ezekiel 27:13; Ezekiel 32:26, &c.). They are the Moschi and Tibareni of classical writers, the Muski and Tabal of the Assyrian monuments, tribes lying south and south-east of the Black Sea (Schrader, Cun. Inscr. pp. 82, 84). If the reading of the LXX. be adopted it will be necessary to find an equivalent for qésheth (bow); and Duhm suggests Rosh from Ezekiel 38:1; Ezekiel 39:1 (see Davidson’s Note).

Javan (= Ἰάϝων) the Ionians, is the Hebrew name for the Greek race.

the isles (coastlands, ch. Isaiah 40:15) afar off, that have not heard my fame &c.] This distinction between the nearer nations who have experienced something of the greatness of Jehovah, through contact with His people Israel, and the remoter nations who have not heard His name, originates with the prophet Ezekiel. It underlies the conception of the invasion of Gog’s host and its destruction as described in ch. 38 f. Gog is the leader and representative of the outlying nations of the earth, and the demonstration of Jehovah’s power against them falls at a time subsequent to the peaceful settlement of Israel in its own land, and long after judgement has been executed on the neighbouring states which had been in contact with Israel throughout its history (see Davidson, Camb. Bible, Ezekiel, pp. 273 ff.). But while the distinction is common to the two prophets, the development of the idea is strikingly different. In Ezekiel Gog’s ignorance of Jehovah tempts him to an act of sacrilege on the land of Israel, which is avenged by the annihilation of him and his host. The spirit of this passage is more evangelical. Jehovah sends missionaries from the nearer nations to those who have not heard His fame nor seen His glory; and the report carries conviction to their minds, so that they restore the Israelites exiled amongst them, as an offering to the Lord.

And they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the LORD out of all nations upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon swift beasts, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, saith the LORD, as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the LORD.
20. The subject of the sentence is the nations. Cf. ch. Isaiah 49:22, Isaiah 60:9, Isaiah 14:2.

litters] Elsewhere only in Numbers 7:3 (in the phrase “covered wagons”).

swift beasts] dromedaries (R.V. marg.).

And I will also take of them for priests and for Levites, saith the LORD.
21. And of them also will I take &c. (R.V.). Commentators differ in opinion as to whether the ministers of the sanctuary are to be taken from the restored exiles or from the Gentiles who bring them back; the language is consistent with either supposition. The latter is thought by some to be excluded by Isaiah 56:6 f. (shewing the utmost limit of concession to foreigners), and Isaiah 61:6 (where a priestly standing is assigned to the Jews). These considerations, however, are not decisive; and the emphasis of the statement is perhaps better explained by the bolder conception. In any case the prophet seems to contemplate a suspension of the provisions of the Law, for the words “I will take” suggest something more than that those who are priests and Levites by birth shall be permitted to exercise their hereditary functions.

for priests and for Levites] Strictly, “for the priests, for the Levites,” implying that they were to be given for the service of the priests and Levites. But the article should probably be omitted, and the rendering of E.V. retained. The conjunction “and” is supplied by all the Versions and some MSS. The duplication of the preposition distinguishes the expression from a characteristic phrase of Deuteronomy (see Driver on Deuteronomy 18:1), so that we cannot (without a change of text) render “for Levitical priests.” Nothing would be gained by such an alteration, for the adj. “Levitical” in this connexion would be a meaningless addition.

For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain.
22. Comp. Jeremiah 31:35 f., Jeremiah 33:25 f.

the new heavens and the new earth] ch. Isaiah 65:17.

And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD.
23. Comp. Zechariah 14:16. from one new moon to another, &c.] Lit. “as often as (ch. Isaiah 28:19) there is a new-moon on its new-moon &c.,” i.e. apparently “at each separate new-moon &c.,”—a peculiar idiom found also in Numbers 28:10; Numbers 28:14.

23, 24. Month by month and week by week all flesh shall come to Jerusalem to worship, while the dead bodies of the rebellious Israelites shall remain as a fearful spectacle and an abhorring to all flesh.

And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.
24. And they (the worshippers) shall go forth] to some place in the vicinity of Jerusalem, no doubt the Valley of Hinnom, Nehemiah 11:30; cf. Joshua 15:8; Joshua 18:16; 2 Chronicles 28:3; Jeremiah 7:32; 2 Kings 23:10. (See below.)

the men that rebelled against me] The apostates so often referred to in the last two chapters.

for their worm shall not die, &c.] (see below) Jdt 16:17; Sir 7:17; Mark 9:44 ff.

an abhorring] The Hebrew word (dçrâ’ôn) occurs again only in Daniel 12:2.

This verse is the basis of the later Jewish conception of Gehenna as the place of everlasting punishment (see Salmond, Christian Doctrine of Immortality, pp. 355–360). Gehenna is the Hebrew Gê-Hinnôm (Valley of Hinnom), the place where of old human sacrifices were offered to Molech (Jeremiah 7:31 f., et passim), and for this reason desecrated by king Josiah (2 Kings 23:10). Afterwards it became a receptacle for filth and refuse, and Rabbinical tradition asserts that it was the custom to cast out unclean corpses there, to be burned or to undergo decomposition. This is in all probability the scene which had imprinted itself on the imagination of the writer, and which was afterwards projected into the unseen world as an image of endless retribution. The Talmudic theology locates the mouth of hell in the Valley of Hinnom. But how much of the later theology lies in this passage it is difficult to say. Nothing is expressly said of torment endured by the dead, but only of the loathsome spectacle they present to the living; although the former idea may be implied and is suggested by a comparison with ch. Isaiah 50:11. “If this passage is of too early a date, as Dillmann thinks, to admit of a reference to the horrors of the Valley of Gehinnom, the double figure of the worm and the fire may be due to the two ways of disposing of the dead, by interment and by cremation. The immediate object of the description of the worm as never dying and the fire as never being quenched, appears to be to mark the destination of those men as a perpetual witness to the consuming judgements of God, and one which all flesh may see. The incongruity of the idea of a fire burning a dead body and never going out, is supposed, however, to point to something more.… It may be that the dead body is poetically conceived to be conscious of the pains of the worm and the fire, as Dillmann supposes [cf. Job 14:22]. But even that goes beyond the immediate object, which is to present the men in question as a perpetual spectacle of shame to all beholders” (Salmond, l.c. p. 212). The view thus expressed is reasonable if the passage was written by the author of the preceding chapters. But there is much to be said for the opinion (of Duhm and Cheyne) that the last two verses are an appendix to the prophecy, written at a later time, so that the language may to some extent be saturated with the ideas which were afterwards associated with the word Gehenna.

In Heb. Bibles and MSS. part of Isaiah 66:23 is repeated (without the vowel signs) after Isaiah 66:24, in accordance with a Massoretic direction, so that the reading in the Synagogue might” close with words of comfort.” The same practice was followed in the reading of the “Twelve” (Minor) Prophets, Lamentations, and Ecclesiastes. see Ginsburg’s Introduction, p. 850.

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Isaiah 65
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