Isaiah 65:3
A people that provokes me to anger continually to my face; that sacrifices in gardens, and burns incense on altars of brick;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(3) That sacriflceth in gardens.—It is not without significance, as bearing on the date of the chapter, that the practice was common in Judah under Ahaz. (Comp. Isaiah 1:29, Mi. 5; Ezekiel 20:28.)

Burneth incense upon altars of brick.—Literally, on the bricks, and possibly, therefore, on the roofs of houses, as was common in the idolatrous practices of Judah (2Kings 23:12; Jeremiah 19:13). By some interpreters the words are referred, though with less probability, to the brick altars which the exiles are supposed to have used at Babylon, and were forbidden by the Law (Exodus 20:24-25).

Isaiah 65:3-4. A people that provoketh me to anger — That the Jews are the people here intended, is without question: the prophet, speaking of the calling of the Gentiles, upon their rejection, enumerates some of their sins which were the causes thereof: for though their crucifying of Christ was the sin which was the principal or proximate cause, yet God visited on that generation their iniquities and the iniquities of their fathers together; they having, by the act of rejecting and crucifying their Messiah, filled up the measure of their sins. Continually to my face — With the utmost impudence, not taking notice of my omnipresence and omniscience. That sacrificeth in gardens, and burneth, &c. — Directly contrary to the divine rule. “These are instances,” says Bishop Lowth, “of heathenish superstition, and idolatrous practices, to which the Jews were immoderately addicted before the Babylonish captivity. The heathen worshipped their idols in groves: whereas God, in opposition to this species of idolatry, commanded his people, when they should come into the promised land, to destroy all the places wherein the Canaanites had served their gods, and in particular to burn their groves with fire, Deuteronomy 12:2-3. These apostate Jews sacrificed upon altars built of bricks; in opposition to the command of God, with regard to his altar, which was to be of unhewn stone, Exodus 20:25. Or it means perhaps that they sacrificed upon the roofs of their houses, which were always flat, and paved with brick or tile, or plaster of terrace; an instance of this idolatrous practice we find 2 Kings 23:12, where it is said that Josiah beat down the altars that were on the top of the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made. See also Zephaniah 1:5.” Who remain among the graves, and lodge in the monuments — Or, as Bishop Lowth renders it, Who dwell in the sepulchres and lodge in the caverns, for the purposes of necromancy, (or, the art of revealing future events by communications with the dead,) and divination; to obtain dreams and revelations: another instance this of heathenish superstition, which the Latin poet describes as follows: —

“Huc dona sacerdos Cum tulit, et cæsarum ovium sub nocte silenti Pellibus incubuit stratis, somnosque petivit; Multa modis simulacra videt volitantia miris, Et varias audit voces, fruiturque Deorum Colloquio, atque imis Acheronta affatur Avernis.” VIRG. ÆN., 7:86.


“Here in distress th’ Italian nations come, Anxious to clear their doubts, and learn their doom: First, on the fleeces of the slaughter’d sheep, By night the sacred priest dissolves in sleep; When, in a train, before his slumb’ring eye, Thin airy forms and wondrous visions fly, He calls the powers who guard the infernal floods, And talks inspired, familiar with the gods.” PITT.

Which eat swine’s flesh — “Which was expressly forbidden by the law, Leviticus 11:7; but among the heathen was in principal request in their sacrifices and feasts. Antiochus Epiphanes compelled the Jews to eat swine’s flesh, as a full proof of their renouncing their religion, 2Ma 6:18; and 2Ma 7:1. And broth of abominable things — For lustrations, magical arts, and other superstitious and abominable practices.” — Bishop Lowth.65:1-7 The Gentiles came to seek God, and find him, because they were first sought and found of him. Often he meets some thoughtless trifler or profligate opposer, and says to him, Behold me; and a speedy change takes place. All the gospel day, Christ waited to be gracious. The Jews were bidden, but would not come. It is not without cause they are rejected of God. They would do what most pleased them. They grieved, they vexed the Holy Spirit. They forsook God's temple, and sacrificed in groves. They cared not for the distinction between clean and unclean meats, before it was taken away by the gospel. Perhaps this is put for all forbidden pleasures, and all that is thought to be gotten by sin, that abominable thing which the Lord hates. Christ denounced many woes against the pride and hypocrisy of the Jews. The proof against them is plain. And let us watch against pride and self-preference, remembering that every sin, and the most secret thoughts of man's heart, are known and will be judged by God.A people - This verse contains a specification of the reasons why God had rejected them, and brought the calamities upon them.

That provoketh me to anger - That is, by their sins. They give constant occasion for my indignation.

Continually - (תמיד tâmı̂yd). It is not once merely, but their conduct as a people is constantly such as to excite my displeasure.

To my face - There is no attempt at concealment. Their abominations are public. It is always regarded as an additional affront when an offence is committed in the very presence of another, and when there is not even the apology that it was supposed he did not see the offender. It is a great aggravation of the guilt of the stoner, that his offence is committed in the very presence, and under the very eye, of God.

That sacrificeth in gardens - (See the notes at Isaiah 1:29).

And burneth incense - On the meaning of the word 'incense,' see the notes at Isaiah 1:13.

Upon altars of brick - Margin, 'Bricks.' The Hebrew is simply, 'Upon bricks.' The command of God was that the altars for sacrifice should be made of unhewn stone Exodus 20:24-25. But the pagan had altars of a different description, and the Jews had sacrificed on those altars. Some have supposed that this means that they sacrificed on the roofs of their houses, which were flat, and paved with brick, or tile, or plaster. That altars were constructed sometimes on the roofs of their houses, we know from 2 Kings 23:12, where Josiah is said to have beaten down the 'altars that were on the top of the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the king of Judah had made.' But it is not necessary to suppose that such sacrifices are referred to here. They had disobeyed the command of God, which required that the altars should be made only of unhewn stone. They had built other altars, and had joined with the pagan in offering sacrifices thereon. The reason why God forbade that the altar should be of anything but unhewn stone is not certainly known, and is not necessary to be understood in order to explain this passage. It may have been, first, in order effectually to separate his people from all others, as well in the construction of the altar as in anything and everything else; secondly, because various inscriptions and carvings were usually made on altars, and as this tended to superstition, God commanded that the chisel should not be used at all in the construction of the altars where his people should worship.

3. continually—answering to "all the day" (Isa 65:2). God was continually inviting them, and they continually offending Him (De 32:21).

to my face—They made no attempt to hide their sin (Isa 3:9). Compare "before Me" (Ex 20:3).

in gardens—(See on [870]Isa 1:29; Isa 66:17; Le 17:5).

altars of brick—Hebrew, "bricks." God had commanded His altars to be of unhewn stone (Ex 20:25). This was in order to separate them, even in external respects, from idolaters; also, as all chiselling was forbidden, they could not inscribe superstitious symbols on them as the heathen did. Bricks were more easily so inscribed than stone; hence their use for the cuneiform inscriptions at Babylon, and also for idolatrous altars. Some, not so well, have supposed that the "bricks" here mean the flat brick-paved roofs of houses on which they sacrificed to the sun, &c. (2Ki 23:12; Jer 19:13).

A people that provoketh me to anger: that the Jews are the people here intended is without question; the prophet, speaking of the calling of the Gentiles upon their rejection, reckons up their sins which were the causes. For though their rejecting and crucifying of Christ was that sin which was the proximate cause; yet God did but visit on that generation their iniquities, and the iniquities of their fathers together, they having by that act filled up their measure. They had provoked God continually to anger to his face.

To my face; either in his temple, the place where he used to manifest himself; or (considering what followeth) more probably the phrase signifieth their impudence, not taking notice of God’s omnipresence and omniscience.

The particular provocations instanced in are deviations in the matter of Divine worship.

Sacrificing in gardens is one thing instanced in; and

burning incense on brick, or altars of brick, is another, Deu 12:13: there was a particular altar of gold appointed for incense, Exodus 40:5. God commanded, Exodus 20:24,25, that his altars should be made of earth, or rough stone. This people transgressed both these laws; sacrificing in gardens, for which the prophet reflected on them, Isaiah 1:29, and again Isaiah 66:17; whether in gardens consecrated to idols, or in such gardens, as the heathens worshipped idols in, is not much material for us to know; and burning incense upon altars of brick, directly contrary to the Divine rule. Their worship was doubtless idolatrous, and these phrases signify committing idolatry; but the expressing that sin by these phrases lets us know that the doing contrary to the direction of the Divine rule in God’s worship is a great part of the sinfulness of idolatry. A people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face,.... They committed their sins openly, without any fear of the divine Being, and in defiance of him, not at all awed by his omniscience and omnipresence; they committed them in the open streets, and even in the temple, the place of the divine residence; and these they did constantly, which provoked him to anger and wrath against them; particularly the following sins:

that sacrificeth in gardens; to idols, as the Targum, placed there, as they were under every green tree; or in groves, where idols were worshipped. Fortunatus Scacchus (h) thinks this refers to their having their sepulchres in their gardens, where they consulted the dead; which is favoured by a clause in the next verse:

and burneth incense on altars of brick: or, "upon bricks" (i). Kimchi says, when they made bricks, they put upon them incense for idols; or, "upon tiles"; upon the roofs of their houses, which were covered with tiles; see Jeremiah 19:13 when incense should only have been burnt upon the golden altar erected for that purpose, Exodus 30:1, not that these idolatrous actions were committed by the Jews in the times of Christ and his apostles, the times preceding their last destruction; for, after their return front the Babylonish captivity, they were not guilty of idolatry; but these were the sins of their fathers, which God would recompense into their bosoms, according to Isaiah 65:7 they now filling up the measure of their iniquities, Matthew 23:32.

(h) Sacr. Eleaochr. Myrothec. I. 2. c. 55. col. 580. (i) "super lateres", V. L. Pagninus, Montanus, Vitringa.

A people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face; that sacrificeth in {d} gardens, and burneth incense upon altars of {e} brick;

(d) Which were dedicated to idols.

(e) Meaning their altars, which he thus named by contempt.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
3. that sacrificeth in the gardens] Cf. ch. Isaiah 66:17, and see on Isaiah 1:29.

burneth incense upon altars of brick] Strictly on the bricks (R.V.), or tiles. We have no key to the meaning of the expression. Some think the “tiles” denote the roofs of the houses, where sacrifices were sometimes offered to false gods (see 2 Kings 23:12; Jeremiah 19:13; Zephaniah 1:5); others (like A.V.) suppose that altars made of bricks are referred to. Why the custom should be specially Babylonian (Del.) does not appear. The word for “burn incense” may mean simply “burn sacrifice”; see on ch. Isaiah 1:13.

3–5. Description of their illegal and superstitious cults.Verse 3. - That sacrificeth in gardens (comp. Isaiah 1:29; Isaiah 57:5; Isaiah 66:17). The groves and "gardens" of Daphne, near Antioch. became famous in later times as the scene of idolatrous practices intimately bound up with the grossest and most shameless sensualism. We have few details of the ancient Syrian rites; but there is reason to believe that, wherever Astarte, the Dea Syra, was worshipped, whether at Daphne, or at Hierapolis, or at Balbek, or at Aphek, or at Damascus, or in Palestine, one and the same character of cult prevailed. The nature-goddess was viewed as best worshipped by rites into which sensualism entered as an essential element. Profligacy that cannot be described polluted the consecrated precincts, which were rendered attractive by all that was beautiful and delightful, whether in art or nature-by groves, gardens, statues, fountains, shrines, temples, music, processions, shows - and which were in consequence frequented both day and night by a multitude of votaries. And burneth incense upon altars of brick; literally, upon the bricks. It is not clear that "altars" are intended. More probably the incense was burnt upon the tiled or bricked roofs of houses, where the Jews of Jeremiah's time "burned incense unto all the host of heaven" (Jeremiah 19:13; Jeremiah 32:29; Zephaniah 1:5). Brick altars are nowhere mentioned. The Assyrians and Babylonians made their altars of either stone or metal ('Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 2. pp. 36, 37; Herod., 1. 183). The Hebrews in early times had altars of earth (Exodus 20:24). The "altar of incense" in the tabernacle (Exodus 30:1-3) was of wood plated with gold; that of burnt offering, of wood plated with bronze (Exodus 27:1, 2). Solomon's altars were similar. Elijah on one occasion made an altar of twelve rough stones (1 Kings 18:31). The Assyrians used polished stone, as did the Greeks and Romans. The re-erection of the ruins of the promised land requires the zeal of every one, and this state of ruin must not continue. It calls out the love and faithfulness of Jehovah. "The cities of Thy holiness have become a pasture-ground; Zion has become a pasture-ground, Jerusalem a desert. The house of our holiness and of our adorning, where our fathers praised Thee, is given up to the fire, and everything that was our delight given up to devastation. Wilt Thou restrain Thyself in spite of this, O Jehovah, be silent, and leave us to suffer the utmost?" Jerusalem by itself could not possibly be called "cities" (‛ârē), say with reference to the upper and lower cities (Vitringa). It is merely mentioned by name as the most prominent of the many cities which were all "holy cities," inasmuch as the whole of Canaan was the land of Jehovah (Isaiah 14:25), and His holy territory (Psalm 78:54). The word midbâr (pasture-land, heath, different from tsiyyâh, the pastureless desert, Isaiah 35:1) is repeated, for the purpose of showing that the same fate had fallen upon Zion-Jerusalem as upon the rest of the cities of the land. The climax of the terrible calamity was the fact, that the temple had also fallen a prey to the burning of the fire (compare for the fact, Jeremiah 52:13). The people call it "house of our holiness and of our glory." Jehovah's qōdesh and tiph'ereth have, as it were, transplanted heaven to earth in the temple (compare Isaiah 63:15 with Isaiah 60:7); and this earthly dwelling-place of God is Israel's possession, and therefore Israel's qōdesh and tiph'ereth. The relative clause describes what sublime historical reminiscences are attached to the temple: אשׁר is equivalent to שׁם אשׁר, as in Genesis 39:20; Numbers 20:13 (compare Psalm 84:4), Deuteronomy 8:15, etc. הללּך has chateph-pathach, into which, as a rule, the vocal sheva under the first of two similar letters is changed. Machămaddēnū (our delights) may possibly include favourite places, ornamental buildings, and pleasure grounds; but the parallel leads us rather to think primarily of things associated with the worship of God, in which the people found a holy delight. כל, contrary to the usual custom, is here followed by the singular of the predicate, as in Proverbs 16:2; Ezekiel 31:15 (cf., Genesis 9:29). Will Jehovah still put restraint upon Himself, and cause His merciful love to keep silence, על־זאת, with such a state of things as this, or notwithstanding this state of things (Job 10:7)? On התאפּק, see Isaiah 63:15; Isaiah 42:14. The suffering would indeed increase עד־מאד (to the utmost), if it caused the destruction of Israel, or should not be followed at last by Israel's restoration. Jehovah's compassion cannot any longer thus forcibly restrain itself; it must break forth, like Joseph's tears in the recognition scene (Genesis 45:1).
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