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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Isaiah 66

 

 

Verse 1-2

Isaiah 66:1-2. Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne — That is, the throne of my glory and government; the place where I most manifest my power, and show myself in my majesty. Hence we are taught to pray, Our Father which art in heaven. And the earth is my footstool — Or, a place on which I set my feet, (Matthew 5:35,) overruling all the affairs of it according to my will. Where is the house that ye build me? — Can there be a house built that will contain me, who encompass and fill heaven and earth? and where is the place of my rest? — Where is the place wherein I can be said to rest in a proper sense? The ark was indeed called God’s footstool, and the place of his rest, in a figurative sense, because there God manifested himself, though in degrees much beneath the manifestations of himself in heaven: but properly God hath no certain place of rest, and especially no temple built by man can be a place of rest for him. For what satisfaction can the Eternal Mind take in a house made with men’s hands? What occasion has he, as we have, for a house to repose himself in, who fainteth not, neither is weary; who neither slumbers nor sleeps? Or, if he had occasion, he would not tell us, Psalms 50:12. For all those things hath his hands made — Heaven and all its courts, earth and all its borders, and all the hosts of both. And all these have been — Have had their beginning by the power of God, who was infinitely happy from eternity before they existed, and therefore cannot be benefited by them. Or, as the clause may be rendered, all these things are: they still continue upheld by the same power that made them; so that our goodness extendeth not to him. Vitringa is justly of opinion that “this discourse is directed to the hypocrites, who, despising the gospel of the Son of God, after they had made the temple a den of thieves, were yet zealous to repair and adorn it. They did not consider that a new economy being established, no earthly and material temple could be acceptable to Him whose throne was in heaven, and who everywhere found the place of his rest in the humble and contrite heart.” “The Jews,” says Bishop Lowth, “valued themselves much upon their temple, and the pompous system of services performed in it, which they supposed were to be of perpetual duration; and they assumed great confidence and merit to themselves for their strict observance of all the externals of their religion. And at the very time when the judgments denounced in Isaiah 66:6; Isaiah 66:12 of the preceding chapter were hanging over their heads, they were rebuilding, by Herod’s munificence, the temple in a most magnificent manner. God, therefore, admonishes them, that the Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; and that a mere external worship, how diligently soever attended, when accompanied with wicked and idolatrous practices in the worshippers, would never be accepted by him. This their hypocrisy is set forth in strong colours, which brings the prophet again to the subject of the former chapter; and he pursues it in a different manner, with more express declarations of the new economy, and of the flourishing state of the church under it; the increase of which he shows is to be sudden and astonishing.”

But to this man will I look — But though I regard not the magnificence and splendour of a temple built with human hands, nor any ornaments that are or can be bestowed upon it, nor the pomp and show of the ceremonies and services performed in it, or connected with it; and though I reign on a throne in majesty in the highest heavens, and fill both heaven and earth with my glory, yet will I look with a favourable eye to him that hath a broken and contrite spirit — Whose heart is subdued to the will of God, and who is poor and low in his own eyes; and that trembleth at my word — Who trembles when he hears my threatening words, and receives every revelation of my will with reverence. Such a one is a living temple of God, (Isaiah 57:15,) and of infinitely more value in his sight than the most sumptuous edifice that can be raised by the art or power of man, though it should be adorned in the most costly manner with gold and silver, and precious stones.


Verse 3

Isaiah 66:3. He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man — Without this humble and devout temper of mind, killing an ox for a burnt-offering is no more acceptable to God than if a man offered his son in sacrifice to Moloch. “God here shows that the external ritual worship, offered to him by hypocrites and wicked persons, void of faith and virtue, was no more estimable in his sight than the material temple above spoken of; but that he was as much offended by the ritual worship of the impure, as by the most grievous crimes perpetrated against the immediate commands of the law, and particularly under the new economy, after the promulgation of the law of liberty, and the perfect and true sacrifice offered by Christ to expiate the sins of the world. The declaration is most important, but will not be understood unless by those who are well acquainted with the interior part of religion.” See Vitringa. Solomon, it may be observed, gives (Proverbs 15:8) a short but full commentary on the whole verse: The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord. He that sacrificeth a lamb as if he cut off a dog’s neck — Namely, in order to sacrifice it. This animal was held in the greatest abhorrence by the Jews, insomuch that the very price of a dog was forbidden to be brought into the house of the Lord, Deuteronomy 23:18. The comparison shows God’s detestation of ceremonial performances from persons destitute of true piety. He that offereth, &c., as if he offered swine’s blood — Which, being one of the principal sacrifices which the heathen offered to their idols, was in a particular manner abominable to God. He that burneth incense as if he blessed an idol — As if he honoured an idol with gifts and presents. From hence it is plain that the prophet is not here reflecting upon idolatrous worship, but formal worship; for to say, He that burneth incense to an idol is as he that blesseth an idol, would be only to say, He that blesseth an idol, blesseth an idol; that is, it would be saying nothing. But he is reflecting upon those who, in a formal way, and not in spirit and in truth, worshipped the true God, and by acts which he had appointed. God, by the prophet, declares that these men’s services were no more acceptable to him than murder, idolatry, or the most horrid profanation of his name. Yea, they have chosen their own ways — They live as they list; they persist in their wicked practices, and yet expect to recommend themselves to my favour by their ceremonial observances. And their soul delighteth in their abominations — Taking pleasure in their sins, and showing their contempt of my authority and enmity to my holiness, as much as their fathers did when they were mad upon their idols.


Verse 4

Isaiah 66:4. I also will choose their delusions — I will punish them in their own way, and set those over them as teachers who shall govern them by their traditions instead of my word. Or, I will suffer false Christs and false prophets to deceive them, Matthew 24:24; John 5:43. And I will bring their fears upon them — This was exactly fulfilled when, as they crucified Christ for fear of the Romans, (John 11:48,) that very sin was punished with their utter destruction by the Romans. Because when I called — Because when, by my servants, I called you to repentance, to bring forth fruit worthy of repentance, and to believe in my Son, your true Messiah; none did answer — Very few yielded obedience. He evidently speaks of the calls to repentance, and the invitations to believe in Christ, given them by John the Baptist, Jesus himself, and his apostles and evangelists. When I spake they did not hear — God accounts that those do not hear who do not obey his will.


Verse 5

Isaiah 66:5. Hear, &c. — The prophet here, forbearing to proceed in denouncing judgments against the hypocrites and formalists among the Jews, now turns his discourse to such as feared God, whose religion is described by their trembling at his word, as in Isaiah 66:2. Such apostrophes, or diversions of his speech to other persons, we had Isaiah 50:10; Isaiah 51:1; Isaiah 51:7. The same addresses, it must be observed, belong not to saints and presumptuous sinners. It is highly probable, as Vitringa supposes, that the apostles and other disciples and followers of Christ, who embraced the gospel, who were the seed of the first church, and were to constitute that spiritual temple which God had determined to build and inhabit upon the abolition of the material temple, are here addressed and comforted by God, on account of the contempt, hatred, and excommunication of them by their brethren among the Jews and Pharisees. See John 16:2. Your brethren — By nation, or by an external profession of religion; though false brethren, that cast you out — That cast you out of their synagogues, cast you out of their city, and some of you out of the world; for my name’s sake — For your adherence to my law; said, Let the Lord be glorified — Thinking they did God good service, John 16:2. Or, we may understand it as spoken in defiance of God; as if he had said, You say God will be glorified in your deliverance. Let him be glorified then. Let him make speed and hasten his work, Isaiah 5:19. Thus they derided Christ, Let him deliver him since he delighted in him. But he shall appear to your joy, &c. — There will come a time, which is at no great distance, when God will come forth, and let them know his judgment concerning their unjust and violent proceedings. Then you shall have joy, and they shall be ashamed, 2 Thessalonians 1:6-8. This was fulfilled when, upon the signal given of Jerusalem’s approaching destruction, the hearts of the Jews failed them for fear: but the disciples of Christ, whom they hated and persecuted, lifted up their heads with joy, knowing that their redemption drew nigh, Luke 21:26.


Verse 6

Isaiah 66:6. A voice of noise from the city, &c. — This is an expression of a prophetical ecstasy, in which the prophet hears the noise of the ruin of the city and temple sounding in his ears. This voice of noise comes not from the city only, but from the temple, wherein these formalists had so much gloried, and reposed so much confidence. There is a noise of soldiers slaying, and of the poor people shrieking or crying out. A voice of the Lord — Not in thunder, which is sometimes called the Lord’s voice, but that rendereth recompense to his enemies — Thus he expresses the destruction of the Jews by the Roman armies, as a thing at that time doing. Some think this prophecy was fulfilled, partly at least, in the prodigies which, according to Josephus, in his history of the Jewish wars, (lib. 7. cap. 12,) preceded the destruction of Jerusalem: that the eastern gate of the temple, which was of solid brass and very heavy, and was scarcely shut in an evening by twenty men, and was fastened by strong bars and bolts, was seen, at the sixth hour of the night, opened of its own accord, and could hardly be shut again: that before the setting of the sun, there were seen over all the country chariots and armies fighting in the clouds, and besieging cities: that at the feast of pentecost, as the priests were going into the inner temple by night, as usual, to attend their service, they heard first a motion and noise, and then a voice, as of a multitude, saying, Let us depart hence; and, what he reckons as the most terrible of all, that one Jesus, the son of Ananus, an ordinary country fellow, four years before the war began, and when the city was in peace and plenty, came to the feast of tabernacles, and ran crying up and down the streets day and night, A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the temple, a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides, a voice against all the people. The magistrates endeavoured by stripes and torture to restrain him; but he still cried with a mournful voice, Wo, wo to Jerusalem! This he continued to do for seven years and five months together, and especially at the great festivals; and he neither grew hoarse nor was tired, but went about the walls and cried with a loud voice, Wo, wo to the city, and to the people, and to the temple! and, as he added at last, Wo, wo also to myself! it happened that a stone from some sling or engine immediately struck him dead. It may be proper to remark here, that there is not a more creditable historian than Josephus, who relates these things, and who appeals to the testimony of those who saw and heard them. But, as Bishop Newton observes, it may add some weight to his relation, that Tacitus, the Roman historian, a heathen, also gives us a summary account of the same occurrence. He says, “There happened several prodigies. Armies were seen to engage in different parts of the sky — glittering arms appeared — the temple shone by the sudden fire of the clouds — the doors of the temple were suddenly thrown wide open — a voice, more than human, was heard, that the gods were departing, and, at the same time, a great motion as if departing.” See Tacitus’s Hist., book 5. page 217, in Lipsius’s edition.


Verse 7-8

Isaiah 66:7-8. Here begins a new paragraph of the prophet’s discourse, containing a description of the sudden and great increase of the Christian Church, upon God’s rejecting the Jews, and destroying their temple and worship: “the very destruction of the Jewish polity making way for the reception and spread of the gospel, inasmuch as it abated that opposition which the Jewish zealots all along made to its progress; and the abolishing the Jewish worship contributed very much to the abrogating the law of Moses, and burying it with silence and decency.” See Romans 11:11, and Lowth. This paragraph, however, is not unconnected with what precedes. “It is,” as Vitringa observes, “another consolatory argument, directed to those who reverenced the word of Jehovah, and formed the true Zion, taken from the rapid and wonderful increase of the church among the Gentiles, superior to all human thought, all expectation. For when in the former section Isaiah had done two things; first, had predicted the calling of the Gentiles, (chap. 65:1,) and then the punishment of the ungodly, and such as rejected the gospel; in this section, after he had repeated the indignation conceived by God against the hypocrites and those who did not obey the gospel, he in the same manner comforts the pious Jews, from the unexpected event of the most wished-for success of the calling of the Gentiles, who, joined with them in one body, should form one church, and inherit the earth.” Before she travailed she brought forth — The church is represented here as a travailing woman, the mother of all true believers: see Isaiah 54:1; Galatians 4:26. The whole verse is expressive of a great and sudden salvation which God would work for his church, like the delivery of a woman, and that before her travail, and without pain, of a man-child. It undoubtedly refers to the introduction of the gospel, and its rapid and unexpected progress. Who hath heard such a thing? — The prophet here calls either to the whole world, or to such as feared God among the Jews, to admire his stupendous work of providence and grace, in the sudden erection and wonderful enlargement of the gospel church. Who hath seen such things? — Who hath witnessed such an extraordinary event? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day, or shall a nation, &c. — “The suddenness of this event is as surprising as if the fruits of the earth, which are brought to perfection by slow degrees, should blossom and ripen all in one day. And the fruitfulness of this spiritual increase is as wonderful as if a whole nation were born at once, or by one woman.” For as soon as Zion travailed — As soon as the fulness of time came for erecting the gospel church; she brought forth her children — In great multitudes, without pain or difficulty, no inauspicious circumstance occurring to prevent their birth: see Acts 2:41; and Acts 4:4.


Verse 9

Isaiah 66:9. Shall I bring to the birth — Shall I disappoint and render abortive a design of which I myself was the author, when every thing is ripe for execution, and the effect just ready to be produced? Shall I begin a work and not perfect it? Shall I cause to bring forth, and shut the womb — That there should not be a continual succession of converts in all ages? Zion shall not bring forth once only, but she shall continue to be fruitful: her womb shall not be shut: she shall every day bring forth more and more children, and my presence shall be with my church to the end of the world. Thus the prophet still carries on the comparison between the natural and the spiritual birth.


Verse 10-11

Isaiah 66:10-11. Rejoice ye with Jerusalem — Let all that wish her well congratulate her for the favours God hath conferred upon her, and particularly let the Gentiles rejoice with the Jewish Church, for her advancement shall redound to their benefit. Thus Moses, (Deuteronomy 32:43,) referring probably to the very events here predicted by Isaiah, Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people; for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land and to his people. Be glad with her, all ye that love her — All that love God love the church of God, lay its interests very near their hearts, and heartily espouse its cause. And they that have a sincere affection for it have a cordial sympathy with it in all the cares and sorrows of its militant state. They mourn for Zion in her afflictions and troubles: her grievances excite their sorrows; and if she be in distress, their harps are hung on the willows. But here Jerusalem is represented as having great cause for rejoicing; the days of her mourning are at an end, and she is comforted according to the time in which she hath seen adversity. And of course all her friends, who sympathized with her in her sorrows, are here invited to join with her in her joys, because they are to participate in those blessings from which her joys are derived. That ye may suck — Or, because ye shall suck: and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations — The word of God, the covenant of grace, especially the promises of that covenant, gospel ordinances, and all the opportunities of attending on God, and conversing with him, are breasts of the church’s consolations. In these her comforts are laid up, and thence they are drawn by faith and prayer. From these breasts, therefore, we must suck by an application of the promises of God to ourselves, and a diligent attendance on his ordinances; and with the consolations which are drawn thence we must be satisfied, and not be unsatisfied though we have a very small share of earthly comforts. That ye may be delighted with the abundance of her glory — It is the glory of the church that she hath the Lord for her God; that to her pertains the adoption and the service of God; and with the abundance of this glory we must be delighted. We must take more pleasure in our relation to God, and communion with him, than in all the delights of the sons and daughters of men. Whatever is the glory of the church must be our glory and joy, particularly her purity, unity, and increase.


Verse 12-13

Isaiah 66:12-13. For, behold, I will extend — Or am extending, peace to her — That is, all good; like a river — That runs in a constant stream, still increasing till it is swallowed up in the ocean. The gospel brings with it, wherever it is received in its power, peace, which proceeds forward like a river, supplying the souls of believers with all good, and making them fruitful as a river doth the lands through which it passes: such peace as the springs of this world’s comforts cannot send forth, and the dams of the world’s troubles cannot stop or drive back; such a river of peace as will carry us to the ocean of boundless and endless bliss. And the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream — Gentile converts shall come pouring into the church, and shall swell the river of her peace and prosperity; for they shall bring their glory with them; their wealth and honour, their power and interest shall all be devoted to the Lord and employed for the good of the church. Then shall ye suck — Ye Jews also. When you see such crowding for a share in those comforts, you shall be the more solicitous, and the more earnest and diligent to secure your share; not through a fear lest you should have the less, because others come in such multitudes to partake of them, for Christ has enough for all, and enough for each; but their zeal shall provoke you to a holy jealousy. Ye shall be borne upon her sides — Compare chap. 60:4, where see the note. Those that are joined to the church should be treated thus affectionately. The great Shepherd gathers the lambs in his arms, and carries them in his bosom; and so must the under shepherds, that young converts may not be discouraged. As one whom his mother comforteth, &c. — That is, in the most tender and compassionate way. So will I comfort you — I will not only use rational arguments to comfort you, such as a prudent father uses toward his child in distress, but I will manifest toward you such tender affections and compassions, as a loving mother feels toward her afflicted infant. And ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem — In the favours bestowed on the church, which you shall partake of; and in the thanksgivings offered by the church, which you shall concur with.


Verse 14

Isaiah 66:14. And when ye see this — To what a happy state the church is restored; your heart shall rejoice — The peace of the church, and the extension of the kingdom of Christ, are always causes of real joy to such as fear God. And your bones shall flourish like an herb — The bones that were dried and withered, the marrow of them being quite exhausted, shall recover a youthful strength and vigour, and shall flourish like an herb in the spring, whose verdure and beauty in the winter were concealed in the root hid in the earth. In other words, you Jews shall recover your ancient strength and glory, and be renewed in as wonderful a manner as if dry, withered bones should recover their youth and moisture: or, as if the dead bones in a charnel-house should be united with sinews, clothed again with flesh and skin, and should have life and vigour infused into them. Then shall be effected that resurrection of the dry bones spoken of by Ezekiel 37:1, &c., for that vision relates to the restoration of the Jewish nation, after it had lain for many ages in a dead, hopeless condition. In like manner St. Paul calls the receiving of the Jews into the church, life from the dead, Romans 11:15. And the hand of the Lord shall be known toward his servants — The power, protection, and influence of God shall be made manifest for, and upon, all such as truly serve and obey him. And his indignation toward his enemies — But the wicked shall experience a quite contrary dispensation, Psalms 1:4. As God’s hand shall be upon and toward such as fear him, to cover, bless, and influence them, so his indignation shall in that day be showed toward those of your nation who have manifested themselves to be his enemies.


Verse 15-16

Isaiah 66:15-16. For, behold, &c. — Here the prophet comes more particularly to show the nature of that indignation which should be exercised toward God’s enemies. The passage, it must be observed, is metaphorical, “exhibiting God as about to take vengeance on the enemies of his church, under the figure of a commander and warrior, as well as of a judge, armed at all points, severely to punish those who have provoked his indignation: see Isaiah 63:1, &c.; Revelation 18:8; and Revelation 14:20. Some suppose that this passage refers to the general judgment; but it is rather, according to the whole tenor of this prophecy, to be referred to the judgments of God upon the rebellious Jews, and upon the antichristian enemies of the church.” The Lord will come with fire — With terrible judgments: an allusion possibly to the fire with which enemies use to consume places brought under their power. And with his chariots — Like the general of a victorious army. With a whirlwind — With a sudden sweeping calamity, that, like a whirlwind, shall destroy all before it. To render his anger with fury — That is, with fervour; for fury, properly taken, is not in God, Isaiah 27:4. But God, at certain times, executes judgment more severely than at others. And his rebukes — By rebukes he means punishments, for it is said God will execute them with flames of fire — They had contemned the rebukes of the law, now God will rebuke them with fire and sword. For by fire, &c., will the Lord plead with all flesh — God at first pleads with sinners by word, but if he cannot so prevail, he will plead with them in a way by which he will overcome; by fire, pestilence, and blood. Thus he threatens to do with all flesh, that is, with all sinners continuing in sin, and especially with the impenitent and unbelieving Jews, who, being favoured with the oracles and ordinances of God, held the truth in unrighteousness, and abused their extraordinary privileges to their greater condemnation: see Romans 2:8-9. And the slain of the Lord shall be many — Those whom God should cause to be slain. This was awfully fulfilled in the destruction brought on the Jews by the Romans for crucifying the Messiah; no fewer than eleven hundred thousand, according to Josephus, perishing in the siege of Jerusalem, and at least three hundred thousand more during the war; not to mention the vast numbers that perished in caves, woods, wildernesses, common sewers, of whom no account could be taken; and the great slaughter made of them afterward in the wars waged against them by Adrian, when fifty of their strongest fortresses were razed, and nine hundred and eighty-five of their noblest towns were sacked, and consumed by fire. See note on Deuteronomy 28:62.


Verse 17

Isaiah 66:17. They that sanctify themselves, &c. — “Behold,” says Vitringa, “the reason of the great severity above mentioned, namely, a base and abominable departure from God, represented under a certain kind of idolatry and detestable superstition, of all others the most odious and contrary to the institutions of the ancient religion.” It is evident the passage is to be understood figuratively, like those in Isaiah 66:3, and in Isaiah 65:3-4; Isaiah 65:11, on which see the notes. And purify themselves in the gardens There were several sorts of lustrations, or purifications, used among the heathen, from whence the Jews learned their idolatrous customs, some of which were performed by washings, for which purpose they had fountains in their sacred groves and gardens. Behind one tree — The word tree is not in the Hebrew. The words are אחר אחד, achar achad, which may signify, after the manner of achad. Or, as Bishop Lowth renders it, after the rites of achad; observing, “the Syrians worshipped a god called Adad, whom they held to be the highest and greatest of the gods, and to be the same with Jupiter and the sun: and the name Adad, says Macrobius, signifies one, as likewise does the word achad, in Isaiah. Many learned men, therefore, have supposed, and with some probability, that the prophet means the same pretended deity. But whatever the particular mode of idolatry might be, the general sense of the verse is perfectly clear.” It is plainly a reproof of the wicked Jews for the many idolatries and superstitions of which they were guilty, and which are here set forth in figurative language, borrowed from the abominable practices to which many of the Jews were addicted in Isaiah’s time; who privately, in enclosed gardens which were not exposed to view, performed the heathen lustrations, sacrificed in the heathen manner, and to their gods, and eat meats which were prohibited by the law as unclean, although in public they pretended to be true Jews, or strict observers of the law. Eating swine’s flesh — Forbidden, Leviticus 11:7 ; Deuteronomy 14:8. And the abomination — Other abominable meats forbidden to the Jews; and the mouse — The word which we translate mouse being nowhere found but Leviticus 11:29; 1 Samuel 6:4-5; 1 Samuel 6:11; 1 Samuel 6:18, and here, some think it is not that creature which we call a mouse, but rather signifies some serpent. Be this as it may, the sense evidently is, that God would not only destroy the open and gross idolaters and superstitious persons, but all those who made no conscience of yielding obedience to the law of God in such things as seemed to them of a trivial nature, and in which they easily might have yielded obedience. The Lord here assures them that they should all perish together. Observe, reader, in the day of final judgment, the idolatrous pagan or Papist, and the ungodly Protestant, shall fare alike. For no man can reasonably imagine that either baptism, or a profession of Christianity, can save a man from God’s wrath without holiness, any more than circumcision, and the being reputed a member in the Jewish Church.


Verses 18-20

Isaiah 66:18-20. For I know their works and their thoughts — Of idolatry, superstition, and other wickedness. The word know not being in the Hebrew, some apply the ellipsis thus: I have observed their works, &c. Others consider the clause as a question, and read, Should I endure their works, &c.? No: it shall come, that I will gather, &c. — My threatened judgments shall come upon them, and I will gather all nations and tongues to see my glorious holiness and justice manifested in their punishment. Or the sense may be, Because I know and will no longer bear with their works, therefore it shall come to pass that I will cast them off, and then I will gather all nations, &c. — That is, take the Gentiles to be my people in their stead. This sense of the clause agrees well with what follows. And they shall see my glory — My oracles, my holy institutions and ordinances, which hitherto have been locked up in the church of the Jews, and have been their glory, shall be published to the Gentiles, Psalms 97:6; and Isaiah 40:5. And I will set a sign among them — It is agreed by all, that this is a prophecy concerning the conversion of the Gentiles. By a sign here some understand an ensign, as the word אות signifies, Psalms 74:4, which is a military sign, to gather people together, to which, as is promised Isaiah 11:12, the Gentiles shall seek. The preaching of the word seems to be intended, accompanied with miracles called signs, or followed by some distinguishing providence, whereby they should be preserved from the common destruction. And I will send those that escape of them unto the nations — Those few Jews who, being converted to the Christian faith, escaped the national impenitence and unbelief, and the common destruction of the nation; and many of them, the apostles in particular, shall be employed in all parts of the world, for the conversion of others, Matthew 28:19; Acts 13:46. Tarshish, Pul, Lud, and the other places here mentioned, are intended to signify the different quarters of the world into which the gospel would be sent. And they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles — The glorious riches of my grace in Christ. And they shall bring all your brethren, &c. — The apostles and gospel ministers thus sent abroad shall bring the converts of the Gentiles, who are your brethren in Christ, (Galatians 3:28,) Abraham’s spiritual seed; for an offering unto the Lord — Who will have no more offerings of bullocks, or rams, or lambs, but will have men and women, reasonable oblations, Romans 12:1. He will particularly have the offering up of the Gentiles, which shall be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, Romans 15:16. Upon horses and in chariots, &c. — That is, by every method of conveyance then in use. To my holy mountain, Jerusalem — That is, to the Christian Church, typified by Jerusalem. As the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel — These converted Gentiles shall be a holy people, and therefore acceptable to God.


Verse 21

Isaiah 66:21. I will also take of them for priests and for Levites — God will find among the converted Gentiles those who, though they are not of the tribe of Levi, yet shall do the true work of the priests and Levites. They shall minister in holy things, preside in the religious assemblies, teach the people, and bless in the name of the Lord. They shall be stewards of the mysteries of God, as the priests and Levites were under the law; angels or messengers of the churches, pastors overseeing and feeding their several flocks, elders, presbyters, or bishops, giving themselves to the word of God and prayer, (Acts 6:2-4,) and wholly occupied in these holy duties. The apostles were all Jews, and so were the seventy disciples; the great apostle of the Gentiles was himself a Hebrew of the Hebrews. But when churches were planted among the Gentiles, they had ministers appointed them who were, of themselves, elders in every church, Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5; which made the ministry to spread the more easily, and to be the more familiar, and, if not the more venerable, yet the more acceptable. God saith, I will take, not all them, though they are all, in a spiritual sense, made to our God kings and priests, but of them, that is, some of them. It is God’s work to choose ministers, by qualifying them for, and inclining them to, the service, as well as to make ministers, by giving them their commission. I will take them — That is, I will admit them, though Gentiles, and will accept of them and their ministrations. This is a great honour and advantage to the Gentile Church, as it was to the Jewish Church, that God raised up of their sons for prophets, and their young men for Nazarites, Amos 2:11.


Verse 22-23

Isaiah 66:22-23. For as the new heavens, &c. — The new state of the church to be raised up under the Messiah; shall remain before me — Unalterable. As the gospel dispensation is to be continued till the end of time, and not to be succeeded by any other; as it shall therefore remain, because it is before me, under my eye, my care, and special protection; so shall your seed and your name remain — A seed of ministers, a seed of Christians. As one generation of both passeth away, another generation shall come, and thus the name of Christ, with that of Christians, shall continue on earth while the earth remains, and his throne as the days of heaven! The gates of hell, though they fight against the church, shall not prevail against it, nor wear out the saints of the Most High: for there shall be a daily succession of true believers for the upholding of it; for, if believers could fail from the earth, the church, made up of them only, as the true members of it, must fail also. And from one new-moon to another, &c. — In the gospel church there shall be as constant and settled a course of worship, (though of another nature,) as ever was in the Jewish Church. This is described in expressions suited to the Old Testament dispensation, to show that, though the ceremonial law should be abolished, and the temple service at an end, yet God should be still as regularly, statedly, and acceptedly worshipped as ever. Heretofore the Jews were only obliged to appear three times in a year at the place of God’s public worship, but, saith the prophet, in the gospel church people shall worship from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another — They shall be perpetually employed in serving and glorifying him, although in different ways. Their state shall be one continued festival. And whereas, under the former dispensation, the Jews only were bound to attend God’s worship at the great feasts, and of them only the males; now, under the new dispensation, all flesh, Gentiles as well as Jews, women as well as men, shall come and worship before God — That is, shall worship in his presence, though not in his temple at Jerusalem, but in religious assemblies dispersed all over the world, which shall be to them as the tabernacle of meeting was to the Jews: God will in them record his name; and, though but two or three come together, he will be in the midst of them, will meet and bless them.


Verse 24

Isaiah 66:24. And they shall go forth — Namely, those who had joined themselves to the communion of the church spoken of in the preceding verses; and look upon the carcasses of the men that have sinned against me — Meaning chiefly the unbelieving Jews who rejected Christ and his gospel, including, however, all impenitent sinners, and especially all the enemies and persecutors of God’s truth and people. By looking upon their carcasses is meant beholding the dreadful vengeance taken on them. This is here represented in figurative language. The misery is described by an allusion to the frightful spectacle of a field of battle covered with the carcasses of the slain, which lie rotting upon the ground, full of worms, crawling about them, and feeding on them. It seems the Lord, by his prophet, first intends to set forth the dreadful temporal calamities that should come upon the Jews, in the destruction of their city and nation by the Romans; in which destruction, as has been intimated in the note on Isaiah 66:16, not less than between two and three millions, first and last, were cut off by the sword, famine, and pestilence. But when it is added, for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched, it is certain the punishment of the wicked in the world to come is chiefly intended. These words, it is well known, are applied by our Saviour, (Mark 9:44,) to express the everlasting punishment of the wicked in Gehenna, or hell, so called, in allusion to the valley of Hinnom, the place where the idolatrous Jews celebrated that horrible rite of making their children pass through the fire, that is, of burning them in sacrifice to Moloch; concerning which place see note Isaiah 30:33. “Our Saviour,” says Bishop Lowth, expressed the state of the blessed by sensible images; such as paradise, Abraham’s bosom, or, which is the same thing, a place to recline next to Abraham at table, in the kingdom of heaven; (see Matthew 8:11; John 13:23;) for we could not possibly have any conception of it, but by analogy from worldly objects: in like manner he expressed the place of torment under the image of Gehenna; and the punishment of the wicked by the worm, which there preyed on the carcasses, and the fire, which consumed the wretched victims. Marking, however, in the strongest manner, the difference between Gehenna and the invisible place of torment: namely, that in the former, the suffering is transient; the worm itself, that preys on the body, dies: whereas, in the figurative Gehenna, the instruments of punishment shall be everlasting, and the suffering without end; for there the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. “These emblematical images, expressing heaven and hell, were in use among the Jews before our Saviour’s time; and in using them, he complied with their notions. Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God, says the Jew to our Saviour, Luke 14:15. And, in regard to Gehenna, the Chaldee paraphrast renders everlasting, or continual burnings, by the Gehenna of everlasting fire. And before this time the son of Sirach (Sirach 7:17) had said, The vengeance of the ungodly is fire and worms. So likewise the author of the book of Judith, ‘Wo to the nation rising up against my kindred, the Lord Almighty will take vengeance on them in the day of judgment, putting fire and worms in their flesh:’ Judith 16:17, manifestly referring to the same emblem.”

And they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh — Hebrew דראון, an execration, as Dr. Waterland renders it. “Christ the Lord,” says Vitringa, “in passing his judicial sentence on false Christians and wicked persons, will say, Go, ye cursed: or execrated, into eternal fire. That evil will be added to their state of pain, and a condemning conscience. Separated from the blessed and glorious communion of God and the saints, cast into the deepest state of misery, they will be exposed to the reproach, ignominy, contempt, and execration of angels and saints,” (say rather of devils and condemned spirits,) “suffering the punishment of their pride, arrogance, tyranny, cruelty, injustice, crimes, hatred of the truth, persecutions, by which things in this life, fighting against God, and afflicting his saints, they knowingly and willingly provoked his displeasure. These are the ends of the two opposite kinds of men, the pious and the ungodly, in which, after various preparatory judgments of God, the fates of all ages as well as our own fates, will be terminated, and in which this divine book of the great Prophet Isaiah also terminates. May our lot be with the saints, with those who reverence God and love the truth; with the humble, the meek, the merciful, and those that persevere in good works to the end of life, through the grace of our great Lord, Saviour, and Judge, Jesus Christ, who will distribute these blessings according to the will of his Father.”

This eminent divine concludes his very learned commentary on this incomparable prophecy with the following devout prayer and thanksgiving, with which the author of this work, adopting his words, also closes his observations thereon. “Influenced by which hope, and prostrate before his throne, I return, with the most profound humility, my sincerest thanks to God the Father, in his Son Jesus Christ, by the Spirit, for the grace and light wherewith he hath favoured me, his unworthy servant, during my comment on this book; earnestly requesting from his grace and mercy that, pardoning the errors into which I have ignorantly fallen, he would render this work, of whatever sort it is, conducive to the glory of his great name, the benefit of the church, and the consolation of the pious.” Amen!

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 66:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/isaiah-66.html. 1857.

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