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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Isaiah 65

 

 

Introduction

Chapter 65 God Promises To Deliver A Remnant And to Establish A New Nation But Warns That His Judgment Will Come On Many Who Reject Him.

Isaiah continues his theme that not all will suffer the fate of Edom. He learns that God will raise up a new nation, springing from the old and containing many from among the nations. But the large part of those who called themselves His people will be brought into judgment


Verse 1

God Reply Is That He Will Act Sovereignly To Call A People To Himself And Will Form A New Nation (Isaiah 65:1).

Isaiah 65:1

“I am enquired of by those who did not ask for me,

I am found by those who sought me not,

I said, Behold me, behold me to a nation,

Which was not called by my name.”

This is Yahweh’s reply to the question as to whether He will save the undeserving. He will create a new nation. Those who had no intention of asking things of Him, or of seeking Him, will find Him and enquire of Him, because He, Yahweh, will cause it to be so. He will say, ‘Behold me, behold me’ to a nation which was ‘not called by His name’, that is a new nation which He will form but which up to this point has not borne His name. It will be composed of those who in the past were not seen as His or responsive to Him, and had not claimed membership of the covenant, but to Whom He will sovereignly say, ‘Look to Me’, and they will look.

So by His own powerful call He will bring to His feet some who have constantly had nothing to do with Him. This is probably to be seen as including some of those referred to in chapter 64. 5-8. The Potter will mould the clay (Isaiah 64:8). But it probably also has in mind the future call of the Gentiles. They too will come.

‘A nation’. This may possibly refer to a nation within the nation, a minority from whom He will form a new nation. But it is probably, in the light of His words, intended to include the fact that Gentiles also will come, for they especially were not called by His name. Thus He is declaring that hope has not gone because, although He must judge His people, He will form for Himself a new nation to replace the old, which will include all Whom He brings to Himself, a nation composed of the least expected. He will produce an Israel which is truly of God.


Verses 2-7

The Majority Of His People Will Reject Him For Their Idols And Will Receive Their Just Punishment (Isaiah 65:2-7).

On the other hand those who do claim to be called by His name, but are hypocritical, will be rejected and punished because of their unfaithfulness and idolatry.

Isaiah 65:2

“I have spread out my hands all the day,

To a rebellious people,

Who walk in a way that is not good,

After their own thoughts.’

In contrast with those in Isaiah 65:1 are these who have been the constant subject of God’s appeals through Isaiah, who profess to be called by Yahweh’s name, but have been rebellious and instead of walking by the covenant and the Law, have walked in a way that is not good, following their own ideas and desires. He has spread out His hands to them all day, that is unceasingly, but still they will not listen.

Note the reversal here of the usual position. Usually men stretch out their hands to God, but God had become so concerned for them that He had reversed the roles. It was not His fault if they did not respond.

Isaiah 65:3-5

‘A people who provoke me to my face continually,

Sacrificing in gardens and burning on bricks,

Who sit among the graves,

And lodge in the secret places,

Who eat swine’s flesh,

And broth of abominable things is in their vessels,

Who say, “Stand by yourself,

Do not come near to me, for I am holier than you.”

These are a smoke in my nose,

A fire which burns all the day.”

He points out that the reason that they will not listen is because they are people who constantly provoke Him to His face by sacrificing and offering incense to false gods in the sacred gardens on rooftops and in sacred groves (Isaiah 1:29; Isaiah 66:17 compare 2 Kings 21:18). Both sacrificing in gardens (to Baal and Asherah) and burning on brick altars were forbidden (Exodus 20:25; Deuteronomy 27:5-6). (The descriptions here are of pre-exilic Canaanite religion, which evidence suggests ceased as a result of the Exile. The words cannot therefore be post-exilic).

‘Who sit among the graves, and lodge in the secret places.’ This refers to consulting the dead and various occult practises. The infamy of what they did is revealed by their secrecy (compare Ezekiel 8:8-12).

‘Who eat swine’s flesh, and broth of abominable things is in their vessels.’ They deliberately partake of that which has been declared unclean, and what is socially abhorrent (see Isaiah 66:17). The broth of abominable things may refer to the eating on the third day of the meat of a peace sacrifice which has become bad, as described in Leviticus 7:18 as ‘abominable’.

‘Who say, “Stand by yourself. Do not come near to me, for I am holier than you.’ This is speaking of elitist sects in which participants move from grade to grade and engage in ever more degrading ritual. They are exclusivist and divisive, and by their attitude reveal that they are heavily committed and dedicated to false gods. This may include the ‘one in the midst’ of Isaiah 66:17.

‘These are a smoke in my nose, a fire which burns all the day.’ Yahweh is not impressed by them. They are a continual smoke in His nose, something which makes Him want to splutter and spew them out. There may be here a contrast with the delightful aroma that arose to Him when offerings were made by the righteous (Genesis 8:21; Exodus 29:18; Exodus 29:25; Exodus 29:41).

Isaiah 65:6-7

“Behold, it is written before me,

I will not keep silence but will repay in full,

Yes, I will recompense in full into their bosom,

Your iniquities and the iniquities of your fathers together, says Yahweh,

Who have burned (sacrifices or incense) on the mountains,

And blasphemed me on the hills,

Therefore will I measure into their bosom,

Their recompense for what they have formerly done.

The sins of these people and the similar sins of their fathers is written before Him, that is, it is permanently recorded and will therefore be permanently remembered. And He will not withhold action and do and say nothing. They will be paid in full. Yes, they will be paid in full and with personal effect (‘into their bosom’). So whoever are saved it will only be a remnant.

For they go into the mountains and hills to burn sacrifices and incense to Baal and Asherah. Their thought was that the nearer they got to the heavens the more likely that Baal would be forced to respond to their suggestive copulation But this is blasphemy against Yahweh. Therefore all will receive personally for what they have done. ‘Your iniquities and the iniquities of your fathers together.’ Unless we assume a resurrection of the wicked which Isaiah has nowhere mentioned the idea would seem to be that they suffer for their own sins and for the sins of their fathers to which they have acquiesced.

So while God has guaranteed that there will be a nation that survives, it will be a new nation. And large numbers of the old nation will face their necessary judgment. This is the inevitability, the necessary response of a Holy God.


Verses 8-12

A Remnant Will Be Saved, But Large Numbers Must First Face Judgment (Isaiah 65:8-12).

During his inaugural call (chapter 6) Isaiah had been warned that the people of Judah/Israel would go through refinement after refinement because of the depths of their sinfulness. God had warned him not to expect easy results. Few of His so-called people would be saved. But in the end, He had promised, there would be a stump remaining, a holy seed (Isaiah 6:13).

Isaiah 65:8-10

‘Thus says Yahweh,

“As the wine dripping is found in the cluster,

And one says, ‘Destroy it not, for a blessing is in it’,

So will I do for my servants’ sakes,

That I may not destroy them all.

And I will bring forth a seed out of Jacob,

And out of Judah an inheritor of my mountains,

And my chosen ones will inherit it,

And my servants will dwell there.

And Sharon will be a fold of flocks,

And the valley of Achor a place for herds to lie down in,

For my people who have sought me.” ’

The ‘wine dripping’ (tiros) is probably the juice that flows from the grapes before the treading of the winepress commence. If so it is apposite here. Israel are like grapes ready for the winepress of God’s wrath (Isaiah 63:3), but the early juice drippings represent the remnant. Such early drippings were in fact particularly potent (Hosea 4:11). That is why men said, ‘Do not destroy it, for a blessing is in it.’

So the remnant will be preserved as so often in Isaiah (e.g. Isaiah 1:26-27; Isaiah 4:3; Isaiah 6:13; Isaiah 8:13-14 a; Isaiah 10:20-23), because they have a God-given quality different from the remainder.

‘So will I do for my servants’ sakes, that I may not destroy them all.’ There is no longer a thought of Israel as The Servant, it is the faithful in Israel who are now ‘His servants’, and it is for their sakes that He will refrain from destroying all. It is thus made clear that large numbers will yet perish like Edom, but that in response to Isaiah’s pleas, and the work of the Servant/Anointed One, not all will perish. The holy seed, the ‘many’ for whom the Servant suffered will be spared (Isaiah 53:11-12).

‘And I will bring forth a seed out of Jacob, and out of Judah an inheritor of my mountains, and my chosen ones will inherit it, and my servants will dwell there.’ God reveals His determination to fulfil His promises to the patriarchs, here represented by Jacob. Such continuing seed and the reception of the land as their inheritance were two foundation pillars of Israel’s belief patterns. Now He guarantees that He will fulfil both the promise of the seed and the promise of the land (Genesis 13:15; Genesis 28:13-14). They are the inheritors, and they will inherit it. And those who are faithful to Him, His servants, will dwell there.

Note the use of the plural ‘My chosen ones’, and ‘My servants’, Their destiny as the chosen Servant (Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 44:1) has been performed by Another, and through His redemptive work (Isaiah 52:13 to Isaiah 53:12) they now carry on His work. Israel is to find its fulfilment in Him Who is the fulfilment of the ideal of Israel. It is He Who is ‘Israel’, the true representation of Israel, which is why they are no more described as Israel. And they are no more the Servant, for they failed in that responsibility also, while God’s prime purpose in Abraham has been fulfilled in the Anointed One. The faithful, however, are still His chosen and still His servants.

And after God had carried out His judgment as described in Isaiah 39:6-7 Jacob’s seed did come forth from him and inherit the land, and His chosen ones and His servants did dwell there. Unlike Edom their judgment was not final. And it was finally they who possessed Edom, and Edomites were forced to be circumcised and become members of the covenant and were absorbed into ‘Israel’ so that Edom was no more. But that was a fulfilment to a people not yet made fully holy.

The promise, however, was intended to offer more than the literal secondary fulfilment, and had they been able to see forward they would have looked at it in that way, for they would have taken it as a promise that, made truly holy, they would finally partake in the everlasting kingdom (Isaiah 4:3). As often with Isaiah the prophecies include strands and tendencies which are fulfilled at different times.

‘And Sharon will be a fold of flocks, and the valley of Achor a place for herds to lie down in, for my people who have sought me.’ Sharon was to the west and Achor to the east, thus the whole land is in mind. The promise is that once again the land will be fruitful. Sharon was first to be made a desert under God’s judgments (Isaiah 33:9), thus this restoration follows that event. The valley of Achor (‘troubling’) was the place where the sin of Achan was purged by his death (Judges 7:24-25), and had clearly become symbolic of trouble, for according to Hosea 2:15 that troubled valley was to become a door of hope when God began to act, and here it is to become a place where cattle could rest. So the troubled places will become blessed. Unlike the devastated Edom, and those of His people who will experience similar judgment, His true responsive people will prosper. The picture indicates the future prosperity of His true people in terms that they would appreciate, and their final blessing in the new heavens and the new earth.

‘For my people who have sought me.’ Such blessings would be for those who sought Yahweh.

Isaiah 65:11-12

‘But you who forsake Yahweh,

Who forget my holy mountain,

Who prepare a table for Fortune,

And who fill up mingled wine for Destiny,

I will destine you to the sword,

And you will all bow down to the slaughter,

Because when I called, you did not answer,

When I spoke you did not hear,

But you did what was evil in my eyes,

And chose that in which I did not delight.’

On the other hand there is no guaranteed blessing for all. Those who forsake Yahweh and forget His dwellingplace (His holy mountain), indulging rather in idolatrous behaviour, will be subject to judgment by the sword. And this will be because when He called they did not respond, but continued in their sinfulness and refused to do the things that would please Him. This happened again and again, and one outstanding example is the final destruction of Jerusalem and the scattering of the people under the Romans (Luke 21:24), a specific example of the rejection of the old Israel, which had been replaced by the new as described in Isaiah 65:1.

‘Who forget my holy mountain.’ They went regularly into the mountains to perform sexual rites before Baal, but had no time for the one mountain that counted.

‘Who prepare a table for Fortune (Gad), and who fill up mingled wine for Destiny (Meni - ‘apportionment’).’ Fortune (Gad) was a widely worshipped Syrian god. Compare Baal-gad - ‘Lord of Good Fortune’, in Joshua 11:17, and Migdal-gad - ‘Fortress Tower of Good Fortune’ in Joshua 15:37. Meni means ‘apportionment’ related to the affecting of destiny. Both gods were connected therefore with the affecting of destiny. Their names are found on inscriptions both separately and together. It was all the more absurd therefore that they who were thought powerful enough to affect the future had to be wined and dined. These were Canaanite gods, confirming the Canaanite setting for the prophecy, and such gods are only known to have affected Israel in pre-exilic times. This causes great difficulty to those who try to date these prophecies later and have to try to explain this away.

‘I will destine you to the sword, and you will all bow down to the slaughter.’ Note the play on ‘destiny’. It is Yahweh rather than these false gods Who can determine these people’s destiny. And instead of bowing to these false gods they will have to bow to slaughter.

‘Because when I called, you did not answer, when I spoke you did not hear, but you did what was evil in my eyes, and chose that in which I did not delight.’ The reason for their punishment is made clear. God called them and spoke to them, but they neither responded nor heard. Rather they chose to go against His will, doing what they knew Yahweh saw as evil, and refusing to do what they knew He would delight in. And they finally rejected His Servant (John 1:11).

So Yahweh’s answer to Isaiah’s pleas is that a remnant will be saved, an unexpected remnant (Isaiah 65:1), but that large numbers will face His judgment because they go their own ways and refuse to respond to Him. In spite of his promises of a coming Deliverer Isaiah was well aware that much had to happen before He could do His work. But one thing he did know, eventually that work would be brought to completion. And he now closes his book with a vision of what is to come.


Verses 13-24

THE COMING OF THE NEW HEAVENS AND THE NEW EARTH (Isaiah 65:13 to Isaiah 66:24).

The final vision of Isaiah centres on the fact that there will be a new heaven and a new earth. Old things will pass away and all things will become new, just as he has constantly promised.


Verses 13-25

God’s Chosen Ones Will Receive Great Blessing, But It Will Not Be Shared By These Who Have Been Described. And God Will Create A New Heaven and A New Earth, and A New Jerusalem. The Old Will Have Passed Away (Isaiah 65:13-25).

We are now approaching the final description of the time of God’s final triumph and it is now made clear that there will be a new heaven and a new earth, and a new Jerusalem. All is to be transformed. The old is to suffer the fate of Edom. A new is necessary. It is describing the final blessing on those who are His true servants, who have truly responded to Him, who trust in Him as ‘the Amen’, but the warning from what happened to Edom still stands. Those who reject His covenant will lose out and face His judgment.

Isaiah 65:13-14

‘Therefore thus says the Lord Yahweh,

“Behold my servants will eat,

But you will be hungry,

Behold my servants will drink,

But you will be thirsty,

Behold my servants will rejoice,

But you will be ashamed,

Behold my servants will sing for joy of heart,

But you will cry for sorrow of heart,

And will howl for breaking of spirit.” ‘

The warning comes from ‘the Lord Yahweh’, repeated in Isaiah 65:15, the same ‘Lord Yahweh’ Who sent the Anointed One to His people (Isaiah 61:1, repeated in Isaiah 61:11). It is He Who will shepherd God’s servants, and will determine the destiny of these Yahweh rejecters.

God’s warnings to those who are feeding and wining their false gods, and who are playing with ‘good fortune’ and with ‘destiny’ are emphasised. In the future it will be Yahweh’s servants who will enjoy all the good things, eating and being satisfied, drinking and having their thirst quenched, rejoicing and singing for joy of heart, while the servants of these false gods will be hungry, and thirsty, and shamefaced, and sorrowful of heart and howling because their spirit is broken. Their revelry will become mourning and misery.

Every good which His true people will enjoy, will result in the opposite for those who reject Him. They who thought they had made a wise choice with their eating and drinking with the gods, their celebrations in the mountains and the valleys, their bawdy, wine-produced singing, their partying and their good times will now discover that their destiny is the very reverse of what they have enjoyed, while those who have been faithful to Yahweh will enjoy them to the greatest extent possible.

Isaiah 65:15-16

“And you will leave your name for a curse (‘an oath’) to my chosen,

And the Lord Yahweh will slay each of you,

And he will call his servants by another name,

In connection with which he who blesses himself in the earth,

Will bless himself in the God of Amen,

And he who swears in the earth,

Will swear by the God of Amen,

Because the former troubles are forgotten,

And because they are hid from my eyes.”

‘And you will leave your name for a curse (‘an oath’) to my chosen, and the Lord Yahweh will slay each of you.’ In the judgment that is coming on them, which will be individual slaying at the hand of Yahweh as previously experienced by the Edomites (Isaiah 63:1-6), they will leave their name behind, that which represents what they are, and to God’s chosen ones their name will be a name for cursing by (because it will be seen as so hideous). Their reputation will be gone. Their name will be a curse. The righteous on looking back on them will despise and reject them. (It is unimportant what the name was, what matters is that it represented them, and that it is now shamed).

‘And he will call his servants by another name, so that he who blesses himself in the earth, will bless himself in the God of Amen, and he who swears in the earth, will swear by the God of Amen, because the former troubles are forgotten, and because they are hid from my eyes.’ But His servants will receive a new name. The renaming of His people, as He renamed Abraham (Genesis 17:5) and Jacob (Genesis 32:28), indicates a new beginning. They will no longer look back to what they were, nor to themselves as belonging to the people to whom they once belonged, whose very name will be only usable for cursing, a sign of the contempt in which it is held. They will be a separated people, separated to Yahweh. They will be a new people, a new nation, the faithful remnant as augmented by Gentiles (Isaiah 65:1) who will be grafted in among them. God will have a new chosen people, founded on a remnant of the old.

The remarkable fulfilment of this when they became known as ‘Messiah-men’ (‘Christ-men’ - Christians - Acts 11:26) should not be overlooked. They gradually recognised that they were no longer ‘Jews’, and turned their backs on the old Judaism, beginning anew as the Israel of God and as ‘Christ’s men’. And this new name meant that to them God was the God of Amen, the One Who was sure, and would answer and keep all His promises.

But the final new name will be the name of God, the name of the new Jerusalem, and Christ’s own new name as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 3:12; Revelation 19:16). They will then be named as exclusively His.

There seems also to be the suggestion that their being renamed will mean that God too will be seen in a new way as the God of Amen. But it will only be in a new way because the people had refused it before. For the name means the God Who is a ‘yes’ to His promises (2 Corinthians 1:20), Who is faithful and true (Revelation 3:14), the One Who will keep the everlasting covenant that He has made. Had Ahaz or Hezekiah recognised Him as the God of Amen things might have happened very differently.

So when His people in the future bless themselves or make a judicial oath it will be in the name of the One Who says ‘yes’ to His promises, which will emphatically change how they view their oaths, and the way they see their future. To ‘bless themselves’ signifies recognising their part in the blessings of God, in the Abrahamic promises (Genesis 12:3; Genesis 22:18; Genesis 26:4). Now it will have a new meaning to them as they recognise that God is the ‘Amen’ to it all. They will have full faith in Yahweh, and doubt will have been done away.

The name that men swear by in judicial proceedings is always that which they hold most sacred. Or the thought may be of swearing allegiance to Yahweh as the God of Amen.

This is all a deeply emphatic way of saying that His new people will begin to trust fully in His promises, as previously His old people had failed to do, and that it is only those who do so who will be His people.

‘Because the former troubles will be forgotten, and because they will be hidden from my eyes.’ At this new beginning all the old failures will be put behind Him, they will be deliberately hidden from His eyes. God will no more remember them.

Isaiah 65:17-18

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth,

And the former things will not be remembered,

Nor come to mind,

But be glad and rejoice together in what I create,

For behold I create Jerusalem a rejoicing,

And her people a joy.”

The grand renewal continues. There will not only be a new people and a new name, and a new trust in the God of Amen, the God of Certainty, but God will also create a new creation, new Heavens and a new Earth, and He will create a new Jerusalem. All is to be created anew. There is to be a totally new beginning. All previous references to the new Jerusalem must be seen in this light. The word for ‘create’ is bara’, a strong word used only of God as creating something new that was not previously there (compare Isaiah 4:5; and see its use in Genesis 1:1; Genesis 1:21; Genesis 1:27). And we can add ‘out of nothing’, for no prior material is ever described. It stresses the greatness of the transformation.

Isaiah no doubt visualised this vaguely in terms of the old, but hugely expanded and seen as perfected as Yahweh is perfect, a new Jerusalem, a new promised land, a new world. Thus all previous prophecies must be tied into this. The future was seen as the present, only glorified. Here is the everlasting kingdom.

The New Testament sees this promise of a new creation as fulfilled in three ways. Firstly individually and spiritually in each new member of the body of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), when old things pass away and everything becomes new, so that they are newly created and become a part of His new creation. Secondly in the new creation that results in the Israel of God (Galatians 6:15-16), the true church of Jesus Christ, which is transferred into the inheritance of the saints in light, the kingdom of His beloved Son (Colossians 1:12-13), and lives in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:8). And finally literally in a new heaven and earth, and the new Jerusalem, when the old have passed away and have been destroyed (2 Peter 3:10-13; Revelation 21:1-27).

It is impossible for us to be dogmatic on exactly what Isaiah understood physically by these words. Indeed he was not concerned about the science of the matter, and probably never even thought about it. What he was speaking about was such a total renewal that the old would have passed away, never again to be remembered, and what resulted would be totally new.

‘But be glad and rejoice together in what I create.’ We can compare with this, ‘God saw everything that He had made and behold it was very good’ (Genesis 1:31), but here His whole new people will have observed His work of new creation. And they are to exultantly rejoice in it for it is very good indeed.

‘For behold I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.’ Central to this new heavens and new earth will be a new Jerusalem. This demonstrates how far Isaiah has come in his conception of Jerusalem. It has become totally new and sums up the whole people of God living in the presence of God. He was not bound in his thinking to a literal earthly city. To him Jerusalem had slowly become a concept, the place where men supremely approached God, the place which consisted of all the people of God, where all were holy (Isaiah 4:3; Isaiah 12:6; Isaiah 24:23; Isaiah 26:1-4; Isaiah 28:16; Isaiah 33:20-22; Isaiah 35:10; Isaiah 46:13; Isaiah 51:3; Isaiah 51:11; Isaiah 51:16; Isaiah 52:1; Isaiah 66:10; Isaiah 66:13; Isaiah 66:20). It had become the refuge to the faithful in Israel and the welcomer of the nations. Zion represented His people wherever they may be, but especially (once transformed) as enjoying His presence. Note how now Jerusalem is paralleled with its people (also in Isaiah 65:19). And both the new Jerusalem and the new people will be a cause for rejoicing, and a delight. We are no longer to think so much of a city but of a people and their God, and of their God-provided spiritual refuge, what Paul speaks of as ‘the heavenly places’. It is the true church of Jesus Christ made up of all believers living in the presence of God and having entrance into His presence (Hebrews 10:19-21).

This especially comes out here in that all attention in Isaiah 65:19-25 is now concentrated on the new Jerusalem. The heaven and the earth are left in the background. God is concerned with His new people. But there is no way in which this new Jerusalem is simply the old one done up. It is a totally new conception, and universal in its scope.

Isaiah 65:19-20

“And I will rejoice in Jerusalem,

And joy in my people,

And the voice of weeping will be no more heard in her,

Nor the voice of crying.

There will be no more there an infant of days,

Nor an old man who has not filled his days,

For the child will die a hundred years old,

And the sinner being a hundred years old will be accursed.

This new ‘Jerusalem’, which will be where all God’s people will be, living in His presence, will be a place of joy and long life. God’s eye will ever be on His people and He will rejoice over them, and His joy will be in them (compare Isaiah 60:19). There will be no more weeping, no more crying, no more premature deaths, no more deaths before life has been fully lived (see Revelation 21:4). Isaiah is thinking of all the causes of grief for mankind, and declaring that they will be gone for ever. No child will die in infancy. There will be no premature death. And the thought is not that the old man will finally die full of years, but that no man will come to such a state. There will be no old and dying men. Such tragedies will not occur at all in the New Jerusalem because no one will die (Isaiah 25:8; Isaiah 26:19). Death is not a happening there. There will be no mourning, no tears.

This is then followed by one of the most enigmatic statements in the Old Testament, on any interpretation.

‘For the child will die a hundred years old, and the sinner being a hundred years old will be accursed.’ The application of the round period of a hundred years to both children and sinners should immediately make us beware of taking these phrases literally. This is teaching by exaggeration and contrast and symbolism. ‘The child will die a hundred years old’ does not mean that the period of childhood will be lengthened to that extent, for such an idea would be contradicted by the parallel statement (it would make the ‘sinners’ only children), and even in the days of extreme longevity men were having children, and therefore were adults, well below a hundred (see Genesis 5). It is indicating rather that there will be no such thing as a child dying young. The thought of such a death was so fantastic that it would only happen to a one hundred year old child, that is it was something to be seen as totally incredible.

Would we really rejoice at, or approve of, the fact that parents are to see their children die, even if they have lasted for such a long period? Why is this any better in the long run than the child dying at birth? Surely the grief would be even greater. In days of extreme longevity such a death would be an equal tragedy to any death known today. We would simply be looking at tragedy on a longer scale. And yet this is supposed to be a place where there is no weeping and no tears.

We must therefore suggest that it is rather a statement utilising exaggeration and saying that such deaths are now not to be thought of. It is stating the ridiculous. It is saying that so impossible will the thought of death be that if a child were to die it would not be until more than a whole lifetime had passed, (for by this time seventy years was seen as the standard lifetime). Thus the fear of premature death, and indeed of any normal death, is seen as no more. It is saying that if such an impossibility were to occur it could not be until long after the standard lifetime was past. But the reality, of course, is that it will not occur. There will be no more death. Death will have been swallowed up for ever (Isaiah 25:8). The exaggeration reveals that it is not to be literalised. The idea to be extracted from it is that death is defeated.

A hundred years old was seen as ‘a long time’. Few people used such numbers precisely. But it was ten time ten. And ten indicated ‘many times’ (Genesis 31:7). Thus one hundred means ‘many times, multiplied by many times’, a period beyond thought, especially when thinking of ages.

And why if children are to literally die at a hundred is the sinner to be seen as accursed because he has lived that long? It would mean that for some a hundred years old is but childhood, while for others it is living a long time. If taken literally this would be totally contradictory. And surely in Old Testament terms living to a hundred would as indicating that the sinner was being blessed? And if the sinner dying at one hundred was seen to be accursed, would that not also apply to the ‘child’ who would also be seen as one whose dying was accursed? Taking the words literally they are full of contradictions.

Nor can we see how having a child die at a hundred is any better than a premature death. This is supposed to be a statement of the joy of the new Jerusalem, not of its delayed pain. Isaiah is not saying that God has improved things slightly so that children die less quickly. He is declaring that all pain is now over. So any literal interpretation founders on the fact that having a child die at one hundred years old is no less a tragedy than for one to die at one year old. All that would have been delayed is the pain. And because there has been such a length of time in which to get to know the child the pain would be even greater. Thus it is clear that in fact death for such children is being seen as not possible. No child will die because life will then be such that only ‘one-hundred-year-old’ ones could die, and they are simply creatures of imagination.

‘And the sinner being a hundred years old will be accursed.’ This cannot mean that the sinner is cursed because he reaches a hundred, unless the idea is that he will reach it in a pathetic state. But such an idea does not tie in with the idea of longevity. It is much more likely that it is saying vividly that sinners would notwantto live to a hundred there. That it would be unbearable for them, a curse to them. For such is this new Jerusalem that to sinners survival there could only be seen as a curse, and the longer the survival the greater the curse. In other words it is saying picturesquely and firmly that this is no place for sinners. They would not want to live even that long here, indeed they would not want to live here at all, for it is for those who are holy (Isaiah 4:3; Isaiah 52:1).

So in this new Jerusalem, death for the righteous will no longer be there as an enemy, while, for the sinner, extended life, if it were theoretically to occur because he had slipped through unnoticed, could only be a curse. He would not want to be living there. It will be no place for him. This is because it is most pure. (Revelation 21:27 in fact points out that sinners could not enter it. It is saying the same thing in a different way).

Thus the idea is of death being no longer a problem for the righteous, it could not happen until long after their lifetime, while it would be very desirable for any sinner who might squeeze in, because he would consider himself accursed not to die. (This also rids us of the contradiction that no child dies before one hundred but the majority of sinners do).

Alternately we may see it as simply indicating Isaiah’s deliberate intention to stress the longevity of life in the new heaven and earth, with it being such that no one will die under one hundred, and if they do die at or before that date it will either be as still a child, or because they are a deep sinner. All others will live for an undescribed period, which is immeasurable. The point having been made we are then not intended to enquire too closely into the detail, which Isaiah did not intend to be worked out, his aim being to portray a longevity beyond that even of the early patriarchs, whose children ceased to be children at a much younger age than a hundred, and to explain any premature death.

But what is this New Jerusalem? It is the ideal place. It is the place of men’s dreams. We can therefore only be intended to see in this new Jerusalem the everlasting kingdom.

Isaiah 65:21-23

‘And they will build houses, and inhabit them,

And they will plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them,

They will not build and another inhabit,

They will not plant and another eat,

For as the days of a tree will be the days of my people,

And my chosen will long enjoy the work of their hands.

They will not labour in vain,

Nor bring forth for calamity,

For they are the seed of the blessed of Yahweh,

And their offspring with them.’

The perfection of the place is now described. We have seen before something of the pain people suffered when they saw all that they had laboured for destroyed or taken away from them by invaders (Isaiah 62:8-9; Deuteronomy 28:30). That is again in mind here, together also with the consequences of natural disasters and the possibility of losing their land through debt caused by such calamities. Life had been a constant toil because of such experiences and they were regular occurrences.

But in the new Jerusalem this will no longer be so. Houses that they build will be safe to them, neither being destroyed by invaders nor taken from them to pay their debts; the produce of plants they plant will be for them to enjoy, it will be a place safe from invasion and calamity. The vineyard is used as an example because of the length of time before it became productive after planting. No matter how long it took all would be well. And everything would have a new permanence.

‘As the days of a tree will be the days of my people, and my chosen will long enjoy the work of their hands.’ During the period between the planting of a tree and its final decease His people will be there to enjoy its fruits. There will be no interruptions, no vain labour, no calamities. And trees often seem to go on for ever. That too will be how people’s lives are. It is a deliberate portraying of Utopia.

And this will be because they are the seed of the blessed of Yahweh. This probably signifies that they are the seed of Abraham, of Jacob and of the Servant, the blessed of Yahweh (Isaiah 41:8; Isaiah 65:9; Isaiah 53:10; Genesis 12:3). Because of their response in righteousness to Yahweh they and their children are accounted as their offspring.

All these blessings are in terms of the ideal for the agricultural community. They are seeking to portray this ideal. Indeed the whole purpose here is to build up a picture of perfection, a picture of Paradise. The details should not be pressed. (I have myself no desire in eternity to be a DIY builder or to engage in horticulture, nor do I really see myself as in future being required do so). The stress is on protection and fruitfulness which will be unimpeded by a hostile world, a life of perfect fulfilment.

Isaiah 65:24

‘And it will come about that before they call I will answer,

And while they are yet speaking, I will hear.’

Such will be the new Jerusalem that Yahweh will be aware of all that His chosen are doing or are in need of. Even before they call He will answer them. As soon as they speak He will hear them. By this His daily concern for His own is revealed. Jesus applied this to His own followers when He informed them that they had no need to pray for their daily need, for their heavenly Father knew what they needed before they asked Him (Matthew 6:8; Matthew 6:25-34). It is thus to some extent already true for those who believe in Him. It is even more true for His own now in ‘the Jerusalem which is above’ (Galatians 4:26) to which all His people belong, and will reach its epitome in the heavenly (or should we say new-earthly) Jerusalem of Revelation 21-22.

Note the contrast with Isaiah 65:12 and with Isaiah 66:4. In Isaiah 65:12 and Isaiah 66:4 the people who claimed to be His but were not His revealed it by their unresponsiveness to God. When He called, they did not answer. When He spoke they did not hear. But for those who are His there is a glorious reversal. when they call on Him He hears them, As soon as they speak to Him, He hears.

Isaiah 65:25

“The wolf and the lamb will feed together,

And the lion will eat straw like the ox,

And dust will be the serpent’s meat.

They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain,” says Yahweh.’

Note how what in Isaiah 11:6-9 was said of the whole earth is now spoken of this new Jerusalem. In the new Jerusalem there will be no violence of any kind. Wolf and lamb will feed in the same pasture, the wolf no longer being carnivorous, the lion similarly will eat straw just as oxen do. Wild and domestic beasts will thus thrive together.

‘And dust will be the serpent’s meat.’ The one unchanging factor is the defeat of the serpent. The serpent will continue to eat the dust. The ‘eating of dust’ is a symbol of defeat and humiliation (Psalms 72:9; Micah 7:17; Isaiah 47:1) and crawling on the belly was widely known as something expected by kings of their humbled foes ( see also Psalms 44:25 where it symbolises affliction and oppression). Thus this refers to the curse on, and the ignominious defeat of, the serpent (Genesis 3:14) as symbolising the evil power that lies behind the serpent. There will be no mercy for the tempter. He will still eat the dust.

For this verse compare Isaiah 11:6-9. In both cases the holy mountain is mentioned. The description ‘holy mountain’ probably refers to the whole of Israel/Judah whose main settlement was on ‘the mountain’ which ran from north to south, seen as holy because it is God’s land, although it may refer to Mount Zion as God’s dwellingplace. Isaiah and his readers receive the revelation in terms of their understanding, the new being described in terms of the old. But in Isaiah 11:9 the blessing spreads out to the whole earth. (We have in fact no other way of describing Heaven. Compare how Revelation sees it in terms of a temple, a sea of crystal and so on, all based on the earthly temple).

So the new heavens and the new earth, and the new Jerusalem are being spoken of in terms of a greater Paradise (compare Revelation 22:1-5).

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Isaiah 65:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/isaiah-65.html. 2013.

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